Yvonne Sternes

Baking & Pastry

The Art Institute of Houston

Lillie Sternes

Work hard and learn something new every day. Yvonne Sternes , Instructor , The Art Institute of Houston

Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

When I went to culinary school, I loved learning about food and thought about building a second career in the food industry. It turned out that teaching was the perfect fit for me.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?

First, I have a strong background in the sciences. Teaching Baking & Pastry allows me to draw on that knowledge and pass it on to my students. I teach them not just how to bake, but also why and how certain reactions occur—for instance, what makes cakes or yeast breads rise. Second, working in commercial kitchens taught me to do volume production. Students will be working in bakeries and restaurants, which demands that they learn good time management, how to work as a team, and how to conduct themselves as professionals.

What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

Early in the semester in Introduction to Baking & Pastry Fundamentals, students have the opportunity to learn basics about how ingredients like flours, proteins, fats, and sugar interact to create products that vary greatly in texture, taste, and appearance. Many students have told me that the first two weeks of class are like a fun chemistry class. The intro class is for both Baking & Pastry program and Culinary program students. Baking & Pastry students will build on these basics, and Culinary students can enter the workforce with a good understanding of bakery principles and techniques.

How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?

When students from different programs get together, they bring different points of view, different skill sets, and different ideas—and the creativity seems to just flow. When they come together to work on the same project, each student gains knowledge of and respect for other programs. It builds a greater sense of ownership and pride.

What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

You get out of something—a class, a job, etc.—what you put into it.

What’s the most critical advice you would offer any student embarking on a creative career?

Work hard and learn something new every day. The culinary industry requires long, hard hours. You have to practice to improve your skills.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I would urge students who are serious about their careers to join at least one professional association.