The Ph.D of baking

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Chef Heather Moore becomes Schoolcraft’s first master baker

by Josiah Thomas, News Editor

There are fewer than 200 master bakers in the U.S. and Schoolcraft has its first one: Chef Heather Moore.

In April, Moore traveled to San Antonio to take the practical exam hosted by the Culinary Institute of America, which was her second attempt to get the certification. Her certification was a long time coming and Moore did a lot to prepare for it.

Moore’s first step was applying for qualification from the Retail Bakers’ Association (RBA) and receiving qualification for testing. RBA is the association that the application for her Master Baker Certification is through. Then they base your qualifications off a candidate’s work history and credentials.

“Because I’m already a certified executive pastry chef, which helps with my credentials portion, I got to skip the certified baker certification because I already had the credentials,” Moore said. “Then they look at your work history. So then if they clear you for that, then you have to take a written exam.” That exam evaluated her knowledge of the science and history of baking, which she passed.

Afterward, she competed for the Certified Master Baker exam, “a grueling two-day, 14-hour test of skills, time management and artistry,” as Moore describes it. To prepare for it, she spent several months baking cookies, quick breads, challah, croissants and more while on the clock. She also had to decorate a cake and do a six-minute split, fill and ice of a cake in one take.

Moore’s advice, “Don’t overthink too much. That was my biggest mistake. More than once my colleagues had to remind me to stop overthinking and to go with my gut and stick to the fundamentals.”

Guiding the next generation

Moore has taught at Schoolcraft’s Culinary Arts Department for the past 10 years. Moore teaches baking, food chemistry and manages four cafés at Schoolcraft.

Moore’s commitment wasn’t the only thing that kept her going: she wanted to set an example to the female students and prove that women chefs can pursue that same standard of excellence.

She wanted to do what she did to set a good example for her daughter, whom she describes as “a huge driving force” behind her going the distance and achieving her dream.

A network of support

Before becoming an instructor here, Moore was the student. She is a graduate of the Culinary Arts program. Her first impressions of the program she described were exciting, new and a little bit intimidating. She had never worked in a professional kitchen before starting the program, but before long the other students became her second family. Moore approached Schoolcraft’s famous Culinary Arts program and rose to stunning heights, inspired by all of her colleagues, instructors and family along the way.

The constant pursuit of excellence that Schoolcraft’s four master chefs commit to their craft and better themselves is the dominant culture of Culinary Arts.

Moore had established quite the support system throughout her culinary journey to master baker. Chef Jeffrey Gabriel, Certified Master Chef, Chef Joseph Decker, Certified Master Pastry Chef and Chef Shawn Loving, Certified Master Chef were key ingredients to her success.

Gabriel was her baking instructor, describing him thusly: “he totally lit my fire for the passion of baking [and] taught me the fundamentals of the craft and his help was immeasurable during my preparations for the [baking] exam,” as well as providing mentorship and support throughout her career, adding a dash of humor during tough times.

Moore was an apprentice to Decker right out of culinary school, who mentored and provided countless opportunities throughout her career.

Loving provided a source of encouragement and support to Moore by providing opportunities and resources she needed to succeed in her Master Baker exam.

When asked about the next five years, Moore responded that she’s “hoping to be here at Schoolcraft teaching the next generation of future bakers and possibly participating in competitions.”

Having mastered the craft of baking, Moore isn’t slowing down. Students enrolled in the program should take heart when pursuing their dreams in culinary school, despite the challenges they endure. During her time pursing the certification of master baker this past spring, she set a good example to her students, getting them excited and proving to them, in her own words that “they’re never done learning” and that “even instructors are still doing things to make themselves better.” They can look no further then to Moore as an inspiration and keep pursing their dreams.