Employee Spotlight: Natalie Pursues a Lifelong Dream

 

Does this smiling face look familiar? If so, there are a dozen reasons why you might know Natalie.

Natalie grew up in Barnard and recently graduated from Woodstock Union High School. Through her teen years, she worked at a number of area restaurants and stores, including the Farmers’ Market; she joined our bakery team in 2015. She’s also a member of the WUHS girls’ tennis team, which just won the WPA D-II championship. Or maybe you saw her senior portrait in last week’s issue of the Vermont Standard, alongside the rest of the Summa Cum Laude graduates.

Natalie seems to excel at whatever she puts her mind to. And early on in her life, she set her mind on baking. All of her hard work has paid off. This fall she’ll head to New York’s Culinary Institute of America, after spending the summer in the kitchen at Twin Farms working alongside executive pastry chef Chris Wilson.

Thank you, Natalie, for all of your hard work over the years—and, amid all the excitement in your life right now, for taking the time to share your story with us. We wish you all the best, and look forward to hearing about your adventures on your visits “home” to the Woodstock area.

Q: When did you first discover your love of baking?

A: I’ve always loved to bake from as early as I can remember. I loved to help my mother in the kitchen whenever I could, making delicious chocolate-chip cookies and pancakes from scratch.

Q: You’ve been part of our bakery team since 2015 and just graduated Summa Cum Laude! Not all students can work part-time and keep their grades up. What’s your secret?

A: Knowing I get to jump out of bed on Saturday morning to go do what I love all day helped get me through the week. I’m an organized, responsible person with a passion for baking. Working at WFM has been a tremendous source of joy for me, and my happy place. I was careful to manage my time for my schoolwork and always leave time to do what I love. There’s always time to do what you’re passionate about.

Q: How did your experience at Farmers’ impact your decision to continue pursuing your dream of becoming a baker and pastry artist?

A: I’ve always loved coming to the market, even just to shop when I was very little. With my budding passion for baking, I always knew I would one day work in the bakery. That was a dream of mine from the start. I started working here as soon as I legally could: two days after I turned 15. I’ve grown so much as a baker and a person in my time here and learned so much from my fellow bakers about the beauty of baking and being part of a kitchen community.

Baking is my greatest source of joy. When I’m focusing on something I’m making, it’s like all of the other worries of the world somehow go away. Whether I’m elbow deep in strawberries, mixing up a batch of pies, or piping silky buttercream onto lemon coconut cakes, it’s just me in that moment, completely focused, not worrying about anything else. That, to me, is true joy. The fact that I’ve experienced this kind of flow as part of my work is amazing to me. Most of the time, it doesn’t feel like work to me. I couldn’t imagine a better first job, and I feel so lucky to have worked here.

Q: What do you love most about being in the kitchen?

A: Being in the kitchen is my happy place. It brings me so much joy. I love the feeling of accomplishment of making 25 pies, 100 something cookies, 3 kinds of brownies, and doing finishing work for the case all in one day.  I also love being able to spread the feelings of love and joy I have for food with others through my creations.

Q: What’s your favorite dessert to make? To eat?

A: My favorite dessert to make and eat is chocolate cake and cupcakes. I’ve always been a chocolate girl. I always say, if I’m going to indulge, it’s definitely going to be something chocolate-y.

Q: What’s your ultimate dream as a baker/pastry chef?

A: I hope to travel doing what I love, and work in different bakeries, restaurants, and/or resorts in New York City, Paris, and Italy. I will have these kinds of opportunities while studying at The Culinary Institute of America, as I will participate in a six-month externship as part of my curriculum. I’d also love to have my own bakery someday, maybe in one of the places I mentioned earlier, or perhaps here in the beautiful state of Vermont.

Q: Anything else???

A: Not only do I bake, but I also love to cook. As I’ve gotten older and more adventurous in the kitchen, I make a menu for the week, oftentimes do the shopping, and cook everything I have planned. It doesn’t feel like the day is over until I cook or bake something. As they say at The Culinary Institute of America, where I will be heading in the fall, “Food is life.”

Furthermore, the love for food runs in my family. My mom loves to cook, as she was the one who taught me (although I hardly let her now as I’ve pretty much taken over the kitchen.) But don’t worry, I’m going to give her all my best recipes before I head off to school.

My aunt and uncle also own a bakery and cafe in Massachusetts called “Prince Street Cafe and Bakery,” with delicious, authentic Italian pastries from my aunt’s heritage. My cousin is also an executive chef, travelling all around the West doing what he loves and even venturing to Alaska to work for two summers at The Saltry restaurant in Homer.

My love for baking has and always will be a part of me, and I owe a lot of that to my experience at WFM. Working here has provided me with a strong foundation for working in kitchens, and exploring the love, passion and joy I feel for food. It has clarified that this is the right path for me. I wouldn’t be the person I am today had I not worked at WFM, and my memories here will always hold a special place in my heart.

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