Pastry Arts Certificate Program Student Spotlight: Jill Meredith
When it comes to being a successful online culinary school student, self-discipline is key. This is something Certificate in Pastry Arts student Jill Meredith prepared for in advance. By creating a schedule for her education, Jill was able to graduate from the program as a top student while also balancing everything else life threw at her: family, friends, job, etc. On top of that, she arranged to do her externship at multiple sites, ending with a job offer from one of the establishments. Now happily working as a pastry chef in a cafe, Jill is excited for what the future holds for her career.
Jill took some time off of her busy life to talk to us about the perks of online pastry school, how she managed her externships and why planning ahead and being organized is so important.
Escoffier Online Culinary Academy: Why did you want to go to pastry school?
Jill Meredith: I have always loved to bake–from baking cookies with my aunt to making fudge with my grandma—my passion for baking and desserts started at an early age. I even taught myself how to make bagels when I was 16. For as long as I can remember, baking has been an important part of my life. I knew that I wanted to go to culinary school, so specializing in baking and pastry
seemed like an obvious choice for me.
EO: What did Escoffier Online’s Pastry certificate program offer that the other schools didn’t?
JM: Of course, Escoffier Online is great because if you’re busy, (and who isn’t?) you can still find time to go to pastry school. I loved being able to work on assignments when it was most
convenient for me. Plus, the program was very affordable
EO: What has been your favorite part of the program?
JM: I think the part of the program that I enjoyed the most was getting verbal feedback from my instructors. It was nice to hear what went right and where I could make adjustments. To me, that was extremely helpful. I also loved the live sessions because they were an opportunity to interact with my classmates as well as the instructors.
EO: What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned so far?
JM: The biggest lesson I have learned is that I can do whatever I set my mind to. And even if something doesn’t work exactly right the first time, I will eventually figure it out. That is true for just about anything I do, be it school or something else. I definitely have the ability to do anything I set my mind to do. I just have to believe that I can do it. Escoffier Online helped me gain that much needed confidence.
EO: You did your externship at multiple locations. What advice do you have for juggling life, school, work and your passion?
JM: This may sound contradictory, but I suggest planning the externship before it starts, but then taking it one day at a time. Since I was dealing with multiple sites and personalities, I really had no idea how things would work out. It turned out to be a fantastic experience. My best advice is simply to enjoy the externship and glean as much as possible. Since I went to several different sites,
I was able to learn many aspects of those different businesses and figure out which type of situation worked the best for me.
As far as juggling everything is concerned, set time aside for all of the aspects of your life. Try to figure out how much time you will need to do school assignments, work, spend time with family and friends, etc. Actually writing a schedule out, at least at first, is very helpful.
EO: How did the externship help you in your career and education?
JM: The externship put me in a real-life situation and helped me further develop and hone skills that could really only happen on the job. As it turned out, one of my externship sites offered me a job. I am now the pastry chef for a little café. It’s only part-time, but it’s a start for sure!
EO: What is the one ingredient you absolutely can’t bake without?
JM: Butter. Not only does it add an unctuous flavor that you just can’t get from any other ingredient, it aids in the browning process as well.
EO: What is the one dish you’re most famous for?
JM: I am most famous for my cheesecakes and over the years, I have watched them evolve. I now specialize in little bite-sized cheesecakes that are about one and a half inches in diameter. I love trying different flavor combinations and hearing the “oohs and ahhhs” when I make a new batch.
EO: Who’s your favorite celebrity chef?
JM: My favorite celebrity chef seems to change pretty often and I have a hard time choosing just one. I really like Julia Baker, Elizabeth Faulkner, Gale Gand, Duff Goldman, Jacques Torres and Francois Payard. However, there are many more very talented pastry chefs out there.
EO: Where do you hope to see yourself in your career in 5 years?
JM: In five years, I would hope to be involved in a number of different things. I want to continue to teach cooking and baking and pastry classes (I currently teach classes at Williams Sonoma.). I would also like to be making plated desserts at a restaurant while continuing to hone my craft.
EO: Why would you recommend Escoffier Online’s pastry arts certificate program to others?
JM: I love the flexibility that the program offers and the instructors are fantastic. Even though the instructors are often available to help trouble-shoot problems, the fact that I didn’t have someone watching over my shoulder made me dig a little deeper and really gain a thorough understanding of exactly what I was doing. Yes, you must be self-disciplined to do a program like this, but you are never alone. There is ton of help, support and encouragement from everyone at Escoffier Online!