• Class of 2018 Alumni Spotlight

  • Recipe for Success 
    – Posted Spring 2023

    Sarah Arnold 1 If you flip open the 2018 yearbook, you will find this quote under Sarah Arnold’s name, “Dessert makes everything better.” It’s a motto she takes to heart. Pastry artist Sarah Arnold (Culinary Arts, Class of 2018) designs exquisite custom wedding cakes that look beautiful and taste amazing. Learn how Sarah found her true calling in our Culinary Arts program; and channeled her creativity into a passion for cakes by sharing photos, stories, and videos of her creations with friends and followers on Instagram (@baking_with_sarah_), which has led to incredible new connections and sweet experiences.

    “I always knew I wanted a creative career, but I needed to figure out what to pursue. My mother is an artist, and I’ve always loved drawing and painting. I loved the idea of going to school for cosmetology, so I decided to apply to BVT,” said Sarah. “Little did I know that the kitchen would intrigue me more after the exploratory process, making the Culinary Arts program my first choice.”

    Sarah participated in extracurricular activities earning many accolades in the SkillsUSA Commercial Baking competition. As a junior, she won the gold medal at the district and state levels and placed 7th at nationals. As a senior, she won a gold medal at the district and state levels and a silver medal at nationals.

    Sarah Arnold 4While in our Culinary Arts program, Sarah worked in the kitchen, dining room, and bake shop. She had a well-balanced understanding of the fundamentals. However, in the pastry industry, so much skill goes into the tempering of chocolate, the lamination of viennoiserie doughs, and the intricate temperatures for poured, pulled, and blown sugar. These techniques and training are part of the Johnson & Wales University (JWU) Baking & Pastry Arts program. She said, “While I could have worked at a bakery or restaurant after BVT, I wanted to work at a high-end resort or boutique wedding cake shop, so I knew JWU was my next step.”
    Sarah Arnold Chocolates
    “After high school, I wanted to become a highly skilled pastry artist, designing wedding cakes like Ron Ben-Israel,” said Sarah. “So, I decided to attend JWU to further the foundational skills I had learned at BVT and master more advanced wedding cake design and gum-paste floral arrangements techniques to help elevate my work.”

    “BVT helped shape my career path and taught me the essential skills that gave me an advantage over my classmates,” said Sarah. “In JWU’s introductory classes that taught baking principles, knife cuts, and different cooking methods, I found the classes easier, so the chef gave me a few side projects. While the other students practiced julienne knife cuts, I learned how to pipe chocolate filigrees. BVT set me up for success, teaching me to be productive and efficient in my work.”

    Sarah graduated (summa cum laude) from JWU in December 2021 with a Bachelor’s degree in Baking & Pastry Arts.

    Lights, Camera, Action!
    During an internship at a specialty cake shop, Sarah received a phone call from a casting associate who had seen her Instagram account and loved it. They invited her to apply for the Food Network’s Holiday Wars, a pastry competition hosted by Jeff Mauro with judges Aarti Sequeira and Shinmin Li. They oversee groups of ho-ho-holiday baking enthusiasts who face off for a chance at the very merry prize of $25,000! Sarah had several rounds of interviews before the producers welcomed her as a contestant.

    “I grew up watching the Food Network but never imagined I would one day be on it,” said Sarah. “It was such a whirlwind. I was unaware of how much preparation goes into an episode. I was allowed to pack one suitcase and had to decide which sugar tools to bring. Could I take a blowtorch on a flight? What specialty molds, spatulas, and bowls would be on set? Fortunately, a culinary team ensured their giant pantry was stocked with everything we needed.”

    Sarah Arnold 3Sarah flew to Park City, Utah, to film at their production studio for Episode 3: Thanksgiving Turkey Trot. In this final qualifying round, three teams battled it out with a down-on-the-farm theme with Thanksgiving-inspired creations. Sarah, on Team Red Velvet Vixens, alongside teammates Michelle Scurio, owner of Cake Monstah in Boston, and Sharon White, a bakery owner in Maryland, competed against the best cake and sugar artists from across the country.

    “Filming an episode was a twelve-plus hour day,” said Sarah. “The actual competition was a complete adrenaline rush. I’m used to an extended schedule due to my training and the SkillsUSA competitions. I used to be painfully shy. I opened up at BVT and became more comfortable having the chefs, other students, and, eventually, SkillsUSA judges watch me work. I appreciate how those experiences prepared me for this on-camera pastry competition. Our producer requested that we speak directly to them when prompted to describe our work and ignore the camera. I was already comfortable sharing what I was doing and why because I learned and practiced the skill at BVT.”

    “Teamwork was a big challenge, especially when working with different personalities. The experience was like asking three artists to work together on a painting. Creatively, there are bound to be different ideas, designs, and approaches,” said Sarah. “Communication is crucial in knowing what components others plan to make so you can create your pieces to the proper scale and color. One person may think something is too easy, while another might think it’s complicated. Someone has to be willing to adapt.”

    “The competition was challenging due to the higher elevation of Utah,” said Sarah. “The higher the altitude, the lower the air pressure. So temperatures or bake times had to be altered to come out correctly. I had to adapt and lower the temperature when working on my sugar art components.”

    Sugar art uses different techniques to manipulate sugar into confectionery sculptures, like flowers and animals, which are decorative and edible. “My favorite part of our piece was the sugar mice made out of blown sugar,” said Sarah. “It was a fun challenge making whimsical and playful mice. In the episode, I used thin strips of sugar pulled fast to form pointed noses with tapered ends, curly, irregularly shaped tails, and delicate, fragile whiskers. It was a fun TV moment showing what you can do with sugar.”

    “I learned so much about collaborating and navigating disagreements,” said Sarah. “I’m proud of what we accomplished. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, but I’m happy I did. I’m confident in my abilities and ready for the next challenge!” 

    Dessert Makes Everything Better!
    Sarah Arnold 5“My favorite thing to make is cakes. It’s a blank canvas. I enjoy the possibilities that come with cake decorating, said Sarah. “I also enjoy sculpting with chocolate and sugar because it allows for more artistic ability and design.”

    Sarah is now an Assistant Pastry Chef at Wequassett Resort & Golf Club in Harwich, MA, where she handles all specialty cake orders for the five-star resort. She has created a wedding cake program offering impressive show-stopping cakes. “My education, training, and work experience have prepared me for this new role. I enjoy the precision and skill in creating high-end pieces and producing an incredible experience for our guests.”

    “Someday, I want to have my own business and put my name behind my work. I would love to have a pastry shop that produces the highest quality cakes, cookies, chocolates, and pastries for the public,” said Sarah. “But, for now, I love my job at the resort, and the management experience I’m getting is invaluable.” 

    If there’s a simple recipe for success, Sarah would say, “work toward your goals, do what truly brings you joy, and practice, practice, practice!” She would also point out that her work five years ago looks nothing like it does today. “Don’t be discouraged if you think you’re not good at something. It just means you need to practice more,” said Sarah. “Follow those who inspire you on Instagram and see what they’re creating. Get inspired! And use that excitement to fuel your creativity.”

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