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Patisserie pop-up

Buffet showcases culinary students’ skills

GRCC — Macarons, cream puffs and bonbons, oh my.

On their last day open for the semester, campus lunch spot Foodology hosted a pastry pop-up for the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education’s advanced pastry students to showcase what they’ve learned over their seven-week program.  

More than 2,000 patisserie were prepared by students for the pop-up and were plated and displayed on a three table-long buffet. 

For $6, patrons could choose from chocolate marshmallows, jelly sweets, different flavors of macarons, tiny cream puffs and bonbons of every shape and color to fill their box.

“It was a lot of work,” advanced pastry student Jenna Ackermann said. “Our class was separated into different teams and each team made a different flavor of macaron and bonbon. That’s how we learned about coloring chocolate.”  

Jenna explained how they used existing recipes and chose their own flavors and colors to create patisseries for the event. 

“We learned a lot of new techniques, and it was a team effort to get it all done,” she said. 

In addition to their team’s assigned recipes, some students worked on personal projects. 

Jenna made a mango and panna cotta “egg” atop a slice of pound cake to replicate toast.

Weeks out from completing her final semester at GRCC, Kat De Vries completed two personal projects to put on display. 

“I made a crescent moon and flowers out of pulled sugar and it took two days to make,” she said. “The vase took longer, probably two weeks, and everything is made of fondant and chocolate. Except the flowers on top are gum paste.”

Kat said she had very little knowledge going into the project of the techniques she would use. 

“Now I’ve learned that I can make something like this,” she said. 

Previously a Kent Career Tech Center pastry student, Kat plans to open an online bakery after completing her certification. 

Prepared for Pastry 

Through the Secchia Institute, GRCC students develop baking and pastry skills, and are mentored by chef instructors.

Chef Wilfredo Barajas led the seven-week baking and pastry program and prepared his students to create desserts for the pop-up as their final project. 

“My students may come into this program knowing how to cook, but many of them start with no training or knowledge of pastry,” Barajas said. “When students come to me, I say ‘let me control you for three to four weeks to build your foundation,’ and then after that they can expand and grow their skills.”

Having trained with master chefs and college-level pastry programs around the country, Barajas said his goal is to prepare his students to go into any kitchen around the world with a well-rounded pastry knowledge and training. 

Barajas compared techniques for making pastry to tools in a tool box; if he can give his students all the right tools, he said, they will be well equipped to create desserts with tastes and textures.

“This pastry buffet is a five-star level; it compares to any hotel or restaurant in the area,” he said. “It might take someone 10 years to learn pastry, but these students learn and master 30-50 techniques in seven weeks.”

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter covering Byron Center, Caledonia, Godfrey-Lee, Kenowa Hills and Thornapple Kellogg. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News, covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry, before finding her calling in education reporting and landing at SNN. Alexis is also the author of a poetry chapbook, “Learning to Sleep in the Middle of the Bed.”


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