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Whisking Up An Opportunity Before It’s Scone!

We sat down with #NACEEXP19 Culinary Speaker and successful pastry chef Ashley Liane, to discuss her career so far and how her determination and ability sprinkled with creativity, is helping her and others evolve in the catering industry.

Ashley attended the Scottsdale Culinary Institute Le Cordon Bleu a month after graduating from high school. She knew she wanted to be a pastry chef from her junior year, but she admits she really didn’t fully understand what a pastry chef was until she got into the industry. When she first started out, the catering aspect of the business had not called to her and what she really wanted to focus on was decorating cakes and cupcakes.

Ashley is a hard worker, which is evident from her time at culinary school. Working overnights at a very small bakery after the day’s studies were over, she reminisces, “It was fun and I learned a lot but I also learned that it wasn’t what I expected it to be. I thought I would be an amazing cake decorator immediately. I made the same items every night and every morning, mostly scones, cookies, and cinnamon rolls. That helped me perfect those items and get more comfortable in the kitchen, but it didn’t teach me to find my own creativity.”

Working the night shift at the bakery, she would often be on her own for the six-hour shift. She found this a little restricting because she wasn’t able to ask questions and develop the skills she was starting to learn on the job.

The Phoenician

Leading up to her internship she applied at The Phoenician and not anywhere else. She was adamant to work at the place her mother had said was the best resort in Arizona. Ashley scored an interview with Chef Roy Pell and had no idea he was involved in the Coupe de Monde Patisserie or Pastry Olympics. She declares, “I was lucky enough to get hired and have since worked all the pastry positions in the department.  I’ve done everything from afternoon tea pastries, banquet and restaurant desserts to chocolate showpieces.”

Ashley is proud of the fact that she worked very hard to get the position of Assistant Pastry Chef. Starting as an intern, she moved up over time to a Cook 2, then Lead Cook, Chef de Partie and finally on to the Assistant Chef. She has the drive to be the best and always pushes herself to take on new or different responsibilities before being asked. She likes to show her employers and co-workers that she is capable of learning some features of new jobs before being fully trained on them.

Constantly observing what others are doing, Ashley always has a pulse on the kitchen and the team. She states, “I’ve learned from a great mentor (Roy Pell) about what our main focus should be. For us, the most important thing is to train the new cooks coming into the industry. I want to help them with classic techniques and the basics of pastry, but I also want to help with their creativity.”

She is zealous about her own career, but she also wants to spread this enthusiasm to others and she emphasizes, “I want to keep the excitement of pastry alive.  There is always a new technique to learn, but when digging deeper, it’s actually a classic technique which someone hasn’t learned yet.”

She is furthermore aware of the industry market and notes how trends are always changing but history repeats itself. Stating, “There will always be a new trend on an old technique.” Ashley’s family, particularly her mother, have been incredibly supportive of her career choice. When she decided she wanted to go to school to become a chef, her mother was thrilled and still is today. She has a small family who understands that as a chef, she will always work on weekends and holidays. They found this hard at the beginning, but they know how important her career is to her and how hard she has worked to reach her position. Ashley is engaged and ironically her fiancé is also a chef, so he understands her schedule. They plan time for each other, but they don’t cause a fuss if these plans suddenly have to change.

In addition to her time in the kitchen, Ashley also has the opportunity to travel with her job and views this aspect as one of its many highlights. She always finds it an extra learning experience and is inspired by the work of other chefs. She also follows many chefs from around the world on social media so she keeps up with global trends as well as what happens in the USA. She states, “Social media is great to see the visuals, but when you can actually see and taste someone’s creation and appreciate the work and creativity that went into a pastry or savory dish, I feel like I can really connect to the location I’m visiting. I try to bring new ideas from items I see back with me to share with anyone who is interested.”

Her job is so diverse that one day is not the same as the next. For this fact alone, she relies on her daily reports and information to input and review. At The Phoenician resort, there may be a day with a few small parties, but then the next day, they may be servicing events for 1000 people including breakfast, lunch, and dinner alongside smaller groups.

Ashley and her coworkers often receive specialty requests, from dietary restrictions to surprise birthday celebrations with themed birthday cakes. She emphasizes that the majority of the larger groups want custom menus, and she loves this aspect of her job: making the customer’s vision work for the group size.

Chatting with Ashley, one gets the sense and overspill of zest for a job she loves. Her creativity, hard work and taking other peoples dreams into consideration will help decorate her career path. This lady is sure to impress and knead her way to the top of her profession. In closing, Ashley articulates, “It’s a great job that’s constantly changing, so every day is different, which makes it fun and keeps me busy and always on my toes. I love working at a large place with so many different moving parts because it ensures that something new is always happening.”

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