Chef has a passion for baking and making customers happy
Whitney Evans, the manager of the bakery at Chimneyville Café in Flowood and an instructor for Viking Culinary Group, is hard-pressed these days to name a favorite dessert.
The 25-year-old mulls the question for a bit and finally decides on tiramisu after admitting that it’s a difficult choice when her career is spent in the kitchen creating divine desserts for customers.
Evans says she’s not sure where her passion for baking comes from, since her mom hates it.
“I always wanted to be in the kitchen. I’d get a cookbook and come up with the most random thing I could bake,” she said. “My mom was like, ‘Who’s child are you?”
By her high school years, which Evans spent working at Everyday Gourmet, she was sure she wanted a career in the culinary world.
While studying toward a degree in hospitality management from the University of Mississippi, the Jackson Prep graduate worked at Bottletree Bakery in Oxford.
“I was a waitress for a year, and I helped in the kitchen,” she said. “That made me know I loved the kitchen.”
Her next step in college was working at Emily’s Bakery, where she honed her skills at icing cookies and cakes.
After graduation, she wasn’t sure of her next step. She was considering a baking school in Austin, Texas, “just because I thought Austin was cool.”
A meeting with Viking Culinary Group’s president and CEO Joe Sherman helped her decide to attend a 30-week baking and pastry program at the Culinary Institute of American in St. Helena, Calif.
She completed that in March 2008 and moved back to Oxford to help out at Emily’s Table in Taylor.
Now back in Jackson, Evans is busy with both the café work and instructing cake decorating, brunch and cookie-making classes for Viking.
At first she was a little uncomfortable in a teaching role – “I love to talk to people, but I hate to be the center of attention,” she said. But Evans said she’s gained confidence as the classes have helped her rediscover her love of baking.
“I’m getting more and more confident to where I’d love to teach more,” she said. “I’ve been pulling out my old class notes, and I’ve found the passion I thought I had for baking.”
She enjoys teaching people little-known baking tricks.
“In baking, there are reasons why you add ingredients at certain steps,” she said. “Not many people think that’s cool.” Laughing, she adds, “I guess I’m a dork.”
Instructing Viking courses also presents a challenge, she said, when you make a mistake in front of the class.
“It’s good to learn from your mistakes because you can tell them how you fix it,” she said. “There’s a teaching point in everything. Plus, you’re getting to tell people about what you love.”