The Culinary Institute of America

amber carrasquillo lg

Spotlight On: Amber CarrasquilloBaking & Pastry Arts

Class of 2013
“My allergies have served as somewhat of an obstacle. I’ve been told, many times, that becoming a successful pastry chef would be unrealistic because I can’t eat what I make. While hearing things like that did make me nervous... it never made me hesitate to apply to the CIA.”

How did you become interested in food?
For me, baked goods and pastries have always been something forbidden. I grew up around people eating bread, cookies, and cake as freely as they wanted, but I have quite a few food allergies and sensitivities. As such, I can’t eat most of the items associated with baking and pastry, and my only thought about them used to be how jealous I was of people who could. In high school, I didn’t have a lot of money so I began making friends cookies for their birthdays and they adored them. I instantly fell in love with seeing how happy something I crafted with my own hands made people and I wanted to spread that feeling. I also found myself extremely intrigued with the science of what I was doing in my kitchen. The first time I used baking soda instead of baking powder was not only extremely frustrating, but fascinating.

Who most influenced you?
My parent’s disapproval about my interest in baking is what really got me interested in pursuing this career, as odd as that may seem. I was told a career in the food industry was a poor choice and a waste of money and I should stick to environmental engineering. I was never one to go against the decisions or wishes of my parents, and my choice to pursue this career was the first time I did. When they told me how much they disapproved of my decision to become a pastry chef, it made me realize how much I really care about baking.

Did you have to overcome any obstacles or challenges to come to the CIA?
My allergies have served as somewhat of an obstacle. I’ve been told, many times, that becoming a successful pastry chef would be unrealistic because I can’t eat what I make. While hearing things like that did make me nervous, and I wondered if my chef instructors would agree, it never made me hesitate to apply to the CIA. I’ve never thought that I need to be able to eat something in order to make it; my allergies don’t stop me from understanding what I do.

Do you already have a degree from another college or did you previously have a different career?
I used to study civil engineering with the intention of becoming an environmental engineer later on. I realized early on into my studies that although it is something I am genuinely interested in, it’s not something I want to do every day for the rest of my life.

Why did you choose the CIA?
I chose the CIA because I didn’t want to just learn how to make things. I want to understand methods, ingredients, techniques, and theories. I want to learn more than just the “how” and I felt that by coming here, I would accomplish that. I also chose the CIA over all other schools due to how classes are set up. I really enjoy being in one bakeshop class “all day” and getting to put my entire focus into the class I am in and the work I am doing. It’s very intense, but an excellent way to learn.

What do you like best about CIA?
I absolutely love that no matter who you see at the CIA, they are here for the same reason as you are. When I brought a friend here, he remarked that it’s amazing to think that every single student is united in their interests, and I agree. I can sit down with a complete stranger and have a great conversation about cooking or baking—I can’t do that anywhere else.

Do you belong to any clubs or participate in any activities/sports on campus?
I used to be a member of Slow Food @ CIA.

What are your career goals/plans?
After graduation, I plan on working at a bread bakery in NYC. I fell in love with bread baking in my first bakeshop class at the CIA, I worked at a bread bakery for my externship, and I want to keep doing more with it and learn more about it. In the future, I would like to try working more with gluten-free products, especially bread, in a more commercial setting. Although things have been changing recently in terms of gluten-free availability, I’m still very dissatisfied with the quality of gluten-free bread. I think breads are amazing and would like to widen the availability of good quality breads to more people, and to myself.

Any advice for prospective students?
If you want it, get it. If you are genuinely interested in food and really want to learn, come to the CIA. Think about how much you really want a career in this industry and if you are serious about it, then come here.

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