-- By Giulia Nichols
Miranda Mistretta is a part-time PCCC student. She is expecting this semester to be her last.
Mistretta is in the culinary program of the college. Since she was approximately 3 or 4 years old, she has had an interest in baking.
Her influences in her baking skills were her maternal and paternal grandmother, as well as Rachael Ray and Barefoot Contessa. She considered her skills to have naturally come from previous family members.
As a child, she took cooking classes and had a pastry business. Her mother would help her bake at home for her customers.
When speaking about the number of customers she had daily, she says that she "never really had a big number. I only did orders for special holidays and birthdays. Probably I would get about 2 customers per holiday." Her biggest order might have been three dozen red velvet cupcakes.
While it was hard for her mother to help her with her business because she had to take care of her sisters, she and the rest of her family have supported her culinary journey. They were unsure whether she could work in her field, but she said that she would just need assistance in starting out.
According to her, owning her own business was not easy. She quit the business when it was becoming too hard to manage while she was attending school.
If she were to open another business after completing her program, she would start a cafe that would serve breakfast, lunch, pastries, tea, and coffee. If it would run smoothly, she would open a restaurant and probably make family recipes.
She used to want to try working in the bakery at Costco. She had an enjoyable experience there as an intern and would be interested in working in that department again if any job openings appear in the future.
When it came to enrolling in a college, she almost attended Hudson Community College (HCC). She decided against it because it was too far away from the county, and she did not have the requirements needed for its program.
Miranda has had program experience at the Wanaque Academic Center. There, students would dress in chef uniforms and serve their food to any interested people on the campus.
She credits PCCC's culinary program for teaching her important factors for real-life culinary careers. These include "budgeting, designing menus, Costco values, how much time it takes to make something, management and supervising things, and others."
The instructors who helped her during her time so far at the school are Chef Kamerle, Chef Levitt and Chef Hernandez, who encouraged her to keep doing what she was doing and continue to work hard. Chef Kamerle was her baking instructor. Chef Levitt taught the classes that she had to get certified for, such as a class for managing costs, and Chef Hernandez organized the classes.
She considers herself to be more of a hands-on learner. After the pandemic began, she had to take online classes, which she did not think were the same as in-person classes because she was not in a kitchen gaining cooking and baking experience.
When asked if she had advice for anyone planning on going to school for culinary, she said that she "would just say know what you are doing and make sure this is what you want to do in life. Stick with a plan and take it or leave it."
Miranda has been working in the deli department at Costco since sometime during her high school years or after graduation. She appreciated the good benefits that came with being a full-time worker there right after high school. However, she states that she does not know how her job will help her expand on her dream of baking again in the future in her own business, as working with deli foods is different from handling pastries.
Currently, Miranda is undecided on plans to transfer to a four-year college or university. Schools that she was interested in attending in the past were Culinary Institute of America, Johnson & Wales, or Monroe College. She has taken PCCC's College Writing Exam and Journalism is the only course she is taking this semester.