One of assignments I was given for the Taste of Fiction benefit for Central Library (St. Louis Public Library) tonight was to bring a thank you gift to Chef Casey Shiller, above, one of the chefs interpreting literary works in pastry. Chef Shiller is an Assistant Professor Coordinator/Baking & Pastry Arts program at St. Louis Community College Forest Park. In his spare time, he is Director of Baking and Pastry for Jilly's Cupcake Bar and Ice Cream Bar, 8509 Delmar, University City.
When I arrived at the pastry kitchen with a large library bag stuffed with goodies, including a chef's coat embroidered with Taste of Fiction and the chef's name (courtesy of Christy Schlafly, Ford Hotel Supply), Chef Shiller was walking from station to station instructing students on the finer points of meringue fillings. He broke away from instruction for a few minutes to share some information about the Hospitality Studies Program at the junior college.
When Chef Shiller first came to St. Louis Community College nine years ago, there was only a two-year culinary arts program but no pastry program. One of the first steps Chef Shiller took was to push for an associate's degree in baking and pastry arts. He was told that no one would hire pastry chefs. Two years later he prevailed, and the junior college added a baking and pastry arts program. There are currently 109 students in the program; twenty-eight students, the largest class ever, will graduate in May.
Hospitality Studies at St. Louis Community College Forest Park is the only program in Missouri to offer an AAS degree (Associate of Applied Science). To keep up with current needs, the program is being revamped, and beginning this August there will be four areas of study: food and beverage, hotel, event planning, and travel & tourism.
According to Chef Shiller there's not a restaurant in St. Louis that doesn't have a tie to either the savory or sweet side of St. Louis Community College Forest Park's Hospitality Studies. Graduates from the baking and pastry arts department find employment at high-end hotels (graduate Mary Boehne is pastry chef at the Four Seasons), casinos, and bakeries such as Companion Bakeshop. Some graduates leave the area to work elsewhere.
The number of hours required to graduate from the Hospitality Studies Program was recently cut from 69 hours to 65 hours to comply with the Missouri Department of Higher Education's stipulation that two-year degrees be completed in that timeframe. All credits earned at St. Louis Community College are transferrable; and the cost for a two-year degree in Hospitality Studies? $6000.
Photo courtesy of Chef Casey Shiller
For the library benefit, Chef Shiller has created a flight of cupcakes based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The cupcakes are available at Jilly's and locally at Straub's, package of four, $17.99 (a portion of the sale benefits the library's culinary collection)'. The cupcakes will be available at these locations throughout the month of March.
For information on St. Louis Community College Forest Park's Hospitality Program click here.
P. S. - The Taste of Fiction works in pastry will remain in the Great Hall of Central Library throughout the day tomorrow, Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Be sure to go take a look, 1301 Olive.