Cupcake battled cupcake in a sweet vs savory battle while staples lost out to needle ‘n thread
While the weather outside was threatening ice and sleet, the kitchens of the American Academy of Culinary Arts (AACA) were thick with the smells and flavors of icing and sweets. Teams of culinary students tempted Open House attendees with their custom confectionary concoctions for the Cupcake Wars competition.
PTC’s campus-wide Open House welcomed families and students and encouraged all to casually visit labs and classrooms, ask questions about curriculum and internships, and pick up financial aid packets and scholarship information. Open House is a great time for visitors to meet faculty and students, tour housing, and, in this case, taste test cupcakes in the People’s Choice competition.
President DeFeo kicked off the event with instructions to “enjoy your day” by saying, “Your job today is to relax. Meet the exceptional faculty and students of PTC.”
After a quick orientation that illustrated the college’s open environment, hands-on approach to learning, and features such as Middle States Commission accreditation and resident life (features that distinguish PTC from other career schools), visitors were free to explore the main academic building and the Energy Tech building. Attendees could meet instructors, learn about associate and bachelor’s degrees and certificate programs, consider employment prospects, and sample cupcakes.
Eight teams, seven from AACA’s culinary arts program and one from the baking and pastry program, competed for a People’s Choice most creative cupcake and overall favorite cupcake.
The winners of the culinary club competitions are decided by people’s choice. In the restaurant world, you design a menu with the customer in mind. It’s always important to get your customers’ opinions and have them weigh in on what they enjoy.
“I looked in the fridge to see what we had. I saw lemons. Most people like lemon flavor. So, I thought to myself ‘What goes well with lemon?’ and saw the blueberries which remind me of winter,” said Chandler Flak, a culinary student from Erie.
“Flavor pairings are important. The lemon is tart, and the blueberry is sweet, so they balance each other well.”
“We decided we wanted something that would appeal to lots of people and who doesn’t like a s’more,” she posed. “Most of the competitors today are from culinary arts. We are baking and pastry, so we had to represent.”
“We have a passion for cupcakes and for winning,” she added.
And they did. Taking home the Overall Favorite People’s Choice was the team’s S’mores Cupcake, a rich chocolate cake iced with Toasted Swiss Meringue marshmallow frosting and topped with a chocolate-drizzled graham cracker.
A Savory Southern Cupcake took the honors for Most Creative entry. It was a mashed potato-stuffed cornbread cupcake topped with fried chicken and gravy “icing.”
Here are the students who competed.
Students that participate in cooking and baking competitions put into practice fundamentals and techniques that they learn in AACA classes and combine these skills with their creative ideas and concepts. Competitions are hosted by the department’s student Culinary Club, whose members also gain additional abilities and knowledge related to how to design, recruit for, set-up, and host a special event.
Visitors who filed into the AACA dining lab and sampled the cupcakes agreed that it is hard to pick just one. “They are all delicious” and “I wish I could go back for more” were sentiments shared by many.
But Open House offered more than cupcakes. The BIZthreads store, an effort spearheaded by School of Business instructor Marisa Haney, provided instruction cards with tips on how to hem a pair of pants or how to tie a tie.
“I am taking this home with me,” said one mother who accompanied her daughter to Open House. “I usually staple my hems or use double-sided tape. Now, I am going to try to do it the right way.”
Haney explained the purpose of BIZthreads. “We run a store that sells professional attire for students who need to build or supplement their wardrobe with interview attire,” she explained. “What you wear and how you present yourself on an interview for an internship or a job often impacts the hiring decision.”
She added, “Just as important is the experience our business students gain in running a store, promoting sales, maintaining inventory, overseeing operations, and keeping the books. It puts into practice what they are learning in their business and accounting classes.”
“Not only are we providing an experiential learning opportunity, but we are providing a service to the entire campus.”
For those attendees who wanted detailed information about applying for admission, paying for college, transferring credits, or finding scholarships and grants, the college had staff available to answer questions and laptops ready for those who wanted to apply before they left.
One student, who was transferring from another local college, attended with her parents. Dad said that after meeting PTC faculty at Open House, he believed this was the right decision.
“I am impressed with how helpful everyone has been today and how open and friendly everyone is,” he said. “And the instructors we’ve met are all high energy.”
Mom agreed. “We are confident this is the right move.”
More than 170 prospective students attended the January Open House. Hopefully, their Pittsburgh Technical College experience was sweet. The next scheduled Open House is Saturday, March 24, 2018.