Alyssa Renicker’s journey to The Culinary Institute of America in New York began with 4-H and the Tuscarawas County Fair. A recent Dover High School graduate, Alyssa took time to share her journey and reflect upon how 4-H provided the foundation for her future.
All Over the Place Projects Led to Passion
As a fourth grader, Alyssa found her niche in creative projects like sewing, cooking, and art, eventually leading her to cake decorating. The diversity in Alyssa’s project history reflects her curiosity and creativity. She says her projects were, “all over the place,” but each one allowed her to learn and grow. She started by taking a sewing project. She says, “It was a lot of fun but to this day I still can’t sew a state line.”
After that she took Dog Obedience for 5 years. Her last year she won in a tie breaker round when the other person’s dog moved and hers stayed sitting. She then took an art project and sculpted The Mad Hatter’s tea party scene from Alice in Wonderland out of clay. The first time she took a self-determined project was for fairy gardens, but then the following ones were all pastry related. Alyssa used these projects as a way to explore different pastries, not just making them but also the history of them. Her project titles were: Macron Vs. Macaroon: It’s not just an O, The Versatility of Pat a Choux, and Pies, Tarts and Turnovers.
Music, Art, and Fair Fries
Alyssa also expresses her creative talents through music. Her favorite fair memories of the fair are when the local marching bands would come and play. Alyssa grew up to become a member of one of those bands, the Dover Marching tornadoes as both a saxophone player and majorette.
While Alyssa keeps herself busy with projects, school, and activities, she also loves to relax by “painting, playing and listening to music, working out and most importantly baking.” She has loved to spend time with her friends, especially at the Tuscarawas County Fair. She has fond memories of walking around and looking at the animals, 4H booths and then eating food and riding the rides. She loves the fair fries by the animal booths so much that one year when her club was setting up their 4H booth, she and a friend dug around in her mom’s car for quarters to purchase a cup of them!
The Drama of Delivery
Aside from providing spare quarters for fries, Alyssa’s parents have given her all of the support she’s needed to see her career blossom. This includes helping her deliver cakes, no matter how difficult the circumstances. She shared how she overcame stressful mishaps including a melted Beatles yellow submarine for the State Fair and a collapsing birthday cake for her grandpa. She writes that the biggest challenge she faces in cake decorating is in the delivery.
For Alyssa, one cake delivery stands out above the rest. “It was a Friday night in the fall, I was a majorette so there was a football game. It was away, not too far away, but just enough to be annoying. I went home, changed, and started working on the cake. I still had a bunch of decorating to do, especially fine piping and individually placing edible pearls. I was up until 4 in the morning working on it.” After only 4 hours of sleep, she went to work at Sbarro in the New Towne mall and took an extended lunch to deliver the cake.
She and her parents drove the cake two and a half hours to the venue and set it up where they found a problem, “They told me that they were having a cake stand made for the wedding, but they didn’t tell me that it got broken the night before the wedding. “ Alyssa and her parents use aluminum foil and the spatulas she brought in the emergency kit to lift up the bottom tier and slid foil under it to cover the board. After all of that, Alyssa passed out on the way home and thankfully was able to take the rest of her shift off!
Big Dreams Grew from 4-H and the Fair
As Alyssa heads off to Hyde Park, she’s excited to build on the skills and passion she found for culinary arts. She notes, “The fair and 4-H are what got me into the career path that I’m on. Without taking cake decorating I never would have found that part of me.” She dreams of turning her passion into a career as a pastry chef in a nice restaurant in New York and then opening her own bakery.
4-H helped Alyssa find a way to harness her creativity, talent, and passion as she forged her path to a future in culinary arts. With the unending support of her parents and friends, along with the foundation of 4-H, Alyssa is sure to find success in her future endeavors. I’m guessing she’ll also find inspiration in the craveability of those fair fries to create delectable culinary delights.