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Batter Chatter: Interview with Cordon Bleu Student Jess Abas

Batter chatter: Interview with Jess Abas 

So you wanna quit your job and become a baker. Sure, it sounds glamorous and fun--a world of buttercream and sugar! All sweetness all the time!--but what is it like, you know, before the Food Network tapes start rolling? Recently, we took some time to discuss the life of a budding pastry chef with Jess Abas, who knows what it's like to work (and travel) for pastry--she moved from Tulsa, OK to enroll in the patisserie program at the Scottsdale, AZ outpost of Le Cordon Bleu. From what we see (including a fantastic Cakespy-inspired cake!) she knows her way around a kitchen--and residents of Nashville can rejoice, because upon graduating, she's already secured a position at Sugar Bar, which is slated to open in Spring 2009.


Cakespy Note: The photos used are all Jess' creations--they're all ssignments and baking projects!

Cakespy: What made you decide to study patisserie and baking?

Jess Abas: Growing up cooking was always a big part of my family: at the holidays, dinners, etc. My Dad was always involved in the food industry (i.e. working at Sysco, owning a restaurant equipment company, and owning a couple food establishments). Also, my big influence is my Grandmother. When I was younger she was always baking cookies and she always let me help her decorate with sprinkles and whatnot. Food was always an activity I was welcomed to help with and I loved that. That kind of food always reminds people of home, I think. That's why I just had to be a part of it.


Meringues by JessCakes by Jess
CS: From what we hear, studying at Le Cordon Bleu is a very intense experience. Is it as hard/competitive as we hear?
JA: This school is definitely intense! They take what would normally take a couple years and condense it into one year (that's for the degree program). It's set up crazy but way worth it once you get to the end. The hardest part about the school is that it moves so fast that you sometimes (a lot) do not have time to perfect all the skills. You learn it, do it a couple times, and then you move on to the next thing. That always frustrates a lot of the students. Being in the this field turns everyone into a perfectionist, I think.

Entreme by Jess AbasCake by Jess
And yes, the school is really competitive. It's like 30 students all studying the same specialty, in one classroom... You always see people sneaking glances at your stuff and wonder what they are thinking. Than, you hear other people's grades and compare your stuff to theirs.
Pastillage by Cakespy reader Jess!
CS: Do you think that attending culinary school has changed the way you look at baked goods / pastries in bakeries or restaurants? More appreciative? More critical?
JA: Going to school has completely changed the way I see everything. It makes me both--more appreciative, in that I know the effort and time someone put in to get that product--and critical, in that now I know they way some things are supposed to taste and look from a classic stand-point. Although, I must say I just love old-fashioned baking (that's the best).

Harlequin Rolls by JessCake by Jess
CS: You currently study in Scottsdale. Are there any pastries or bakeries that simply cannot be missed for visitors?
JA: Scottsdale is great! There are tons of restaurants and little bake shops, everywhere. Definitely, go to one of the school's restaurants. They have one at both campuses.

Breakfast tart by JessPie by Jess
CS: What is your favorite baked good to make?
JA: I love baking anything, really. Pies, cookies, brownies, cakes, anything! As long as it tastes good, Ha! I find myself going back to making pies & cobblers, a lot. It's minimal ingredients, fresh fruit, slow-baked... how could it not be good? And they are great because the ingredients change according to season.

CS: What are your favorite baked goods to eat?
JA: My favorite things to eat? Absolutely everything, haha! I have a sweet tooth, that's for sure. I really love a great cookie with a glass of milk or a slice of pie with some ice cream. You know? The stuff that my Grandma would make.

Crumble by Jess

CS: What is your ultimate goal as a baker?
JA: Oh wow! That's a hard question. My ultimate goal is to attempt to make as much delicious food as possible and try and bring as much joy to the people I am giving it to, as it brings me to bake it. I would love to just feed everyone, feed all the hungry.


CS: Do you have any advice for others who may be considering culinary school? Stuff you wish you knew before you started, tips, etc?
JA: If it's what you love to do, whether it be baking or cooking.. Just, go for it! School is a great way to get better and train and hone your skills. It's also a great way to network with other people in the industry. And you have to be committed, it's a tough school, it's a tough field, and it's a tough job. Just love it and do it.

As you can see, Jess is not only sweet but wise too! For more information on Le Cordon Bleu's programs, visit this site; to find out more about Jess' future workplace, visit blog.thesugarbar.com!




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Reader Comments (13)

Wow, Jess's experiences at culinary school sound eerily similar to mine at PICA, only we had smaller classes. The products showcased here are beautiful!

October 19 | Unregistered CommenterWandering Coyote

wonderful post....I would love to bake each and every day!!! The cakes and treats look amazing....


October 19 | Unregistered CommenterDiana Evans

This was fun to read, since it's been almost 8 years that I finished pastry school. Her experience seems so similar to what mine was. I loved culinary school!

October 19 | Unregistered CommenterTanya

Really enjoyed reading this. I would love to do a patisserie course but - alas - work always gets in the way.

Loved the post, i would love to go to one of the evening cooking schools here, it is a three year course, am waiting for my daughter to get 18, so when she in in colleage, i can go for this school.
That is in 2 years .

October 20 | Unregistered CommenterHappy cook

Great interview. I have tasted some of Jess's confections and they are as good to eat as to look at! The Sugar Bar in Nashville will be lucky to have her!


October 20 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

What a great post!! Just look at Jess's confections and The Sugar Bar - whoohoo I'm in sugar heaven!! Love that photo of the top cake :)

Rosie x

October 20 | Unregistered CommenterRosie

Wandering Coyote: That's interesting, I wonder if a lot of pastry schools follow the same type of format?

Diana: don't they just? I wish I could chow down on them!

Tanya: Yay! Glad to bring back some happy and sweet memories!

Caked Crusader: So sad! :-(

Happy Cook: I can't wait to hear about it when you start!

Anonymous: LUCKY, lucky you!!!

Rosie: Isn't it lovely?

October 20 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

the sugar bar seems like a rather adorable spot. great branding and i like the little button candy they have on their cupcakes! i've looked into le cordon bleu before, as well as local schools in vancouver. then i started baking on my own and learning from books. one day i'd like to do a patisserie class in paris, would be very dreamy!!

October 20 | Unregistered Commenterlyndsay

Jesse has fulfilled a lot of our dreams. Great interview. She will be a fantastic baker.

October 22 | Unregistered CommenterTeaLady

Thanks so much for giving me this opportunity! I am now in Nashville working at a production bakery in the pastry department and it's great!

I love your blog so much!
And this interview was amazing.
Thanks so much, again!


January 1 | Unregistered CommenterJess Abas

Jess: Congratulations!! Can't wait to hear more about your pastry adventures. Thank you again for doing the interview!

January 3 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

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