‘Keep Your Options Open’

Pastry cook Christa Hansen visited Mrs. Pizzo’s class to talk about her career

Mrs.+Pizzo%27s+Culinary+Arts+I+class+gathers+around+Mrs.+Hansen+as+she+demonstrates+how+to+make+creme+brulee.

Leah Miget

Mrs. Pizzo's Culinary Arts I class gathers around Mrs. Hansen as she demonstrates how to make creme brulee.

Leah Miget, Reporter

What’s the most you can imagine someone spending on a birthday cake? What about a wedding cake? I’ll bet no matter what number came to mind, it wasn’t even close to $10,000. But pastry cook Christa Hansen has seen a $10,000 6-tier wedding cake baked and decorated and has helped bake many other beautiful and elaborate cakes.
Mrs. Pizzo’s Culinary Arts I class was visited on Jan. 30 by Mrs. Hansen who worked for three years as a pastry cook and used to work at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Clayton. She followed her passion for baking to Le Cordon Bleu culinary school where she studied for nine months to get her culinary certificate. From there, she went to work at the Ritz Hotel and put her culinary skills to the test in a real work environment.
When referred to as a pastry chef in class, Mrs. Hansen made sure to point out the differences between a chef and her position in the kitchen as a cook.
“I was a pastry cook,” she said. “I would have loved to be called a chef but that’s like when you get your doctorate degree and are called a doctor. But, you’re not called a doctor until you get that degree. To be a chef you have to own your own restaurant or be the head of the kitchen so once you become the head of a kitchen you can be called a chef.”
While growing up, Mrs. Hansen baked a lot with her mom and her grandma. She learned so much about baking from her mom and grandma that she had a good amount of experience to build off of during her time at school.
“My mom and my grandma taught me most of what I know. Culinary school taught me a little bit more but I learned most of what I still do when I was little at home,” Hansen said. “I knew I loved doing that and when I was unhappy at K-State, my mom and dad sat me down and asked me, ‘If you could do one thing that you love for the rest of your life, what would it be?’ and I just said, ‘I would just love to bake and be in the kitchen to make cookies and make cakes. It would be so fun. It would smell good all the time. That’s how I chose to be a chef.”

Leah Miget
Mrs. Hansen, a guest speaker in Culinary Arts I, uses a hand torch to caramelize the sugar on a dish of creme brulee that students were able to sample at the end of her demonstration.

Mrs. Hansen went to college right out of high school because there was, and still is, so much pressure on high school students to go to college or make a decision right away when they graduate. She didn’t know what she wanted to do so she chose to go to Kansas State because she thought she had to go to college and get a four-year degree. She was originally going to college to become an elementary school teacher but Mrs. Hansen admitted she didn’t pick the college well and ended up hating it there. That’s why she went back home, switched careers and went to Le Cordon Bleu to enhance her baking skills.
Mrs. Hansen has switched careers a couple of times and for high schoolers, she said, “My advice for anyone in high school who is struggling would just be, it might sound cliche but, to keep your options open. College is a really great route to go, but it’s not the only route. There are really good trade schools. (I would consider Le Cordon Bleu a trade school because you’re learning to do a specific trade and you’re learning to cook or bake.) But, if you’re struggling and don’t really want to go to college, you can still be successful and have a really good career using another path or going a different way from the mainstream.”
There are so many careers to choose from and Mrs. Hansen came into Mrs. Pizzo’s class to share with students a career option that students may not have considered before. She also made creme brulee in front of the class that everyone was able to sample at the end of the presentation. Senior Samantha Staunton was impressed by the cakes Mrs. Hansen showed to the class and enjoyed hearing about her career.
“I would just get more information on different careers because I feel like a lot of people don’t have information on careers that are out there that maybe we don’t speak of very often like details on the main jobs and it may be better to talk about more little jobs too,” Staunton said.
This was not the first career presentation that has been hosted at Liberty. Mrs. Lewis, Liberty’s horizons teacher, is always searching for speakers from different career fields to come and talk to students. The purpose of these talks is to give students information about careers they may not have considered before or to enlighten them about day-to-day tasks that are required in a career field they may have been considering joining. These career talks are also hosted in the hopes that students keep their minds open to different job possibilities that are out there and to know the facts about careers they may be considering from people who actually work in that field.