Written By: Shirley Guzman
On this edition of Student Spotlight, The Port Light would like to shine a light on a very active student in the PCHS community. Senior Carol Conde has shown to be a leader in the school community, as well as an overachieving student. She serves as President of the The Environmental Club, Vice President of the GSA, a member of multiple honors societies, and could be seen volunteering in many school events. Outside of school, she transforms into a passionate baker, creating recipes from scratch for her friends and family. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
When did you start baking and why?
I started baking at the age of 6. Every afternoon after coming home from school I used to turn on the TV and watch Food Network. I used to watch it for hours because I was so fascinated by everything they were cooking. Growing up I learned how to use the oven with the help of my mom and started baking from just cake boxes. Later on I progressed to making everything from scratch and letting my creativity run wild. Now, I try to learn a new recipe every week when I have the chance.
What problems has baking helped you overcome?
Growing up, I did not have the healthiest relationship with food. Over the years, I battled depression accompanying an eating disorder and had become skilled at hiding my illness. Eventually and thankfully, my secret came out, and at the same time trying to overcome my disordered eating, I felt myself drawn to the precision and artistry of baking as a path out of my depression. With each attempt to create my own recipes for cakes and cupcakes, I found my relationship to food changing. I felt good about what I had made and wanted to share my desserts with those I loved. Through my work in the kitchen pouring over recipes, experimenting with different ingredients and sharing my victories and flops with family and friends, I understand that food brings us together to heal and to celebrate.
What do you love about baking? What is your favorite recipe to bake?
I love that you can easily express yourself and your creativity in anything you make. What I have learned is that you can have a basic knowledge of baked goods and follow the recipe step by step, but it’s the next step forward in using your creative sense and adding to the recipe to really make it your own dessert. Around the holidays or when it’s apple season, I love going beyond just making a simple apple pie. I love adding the holiday spices of nutmeg, ginger, and all spice or having a crumble to give it a crunch. These small things make it more special to give out to friends and family.
You are an aspiring baker and wish to go to culinary school, what is your ultimate goal?
After I graduate I want to go to a culinary school and obtain an associates degree in baking and pastry arts. Later on in my life I want to travel the world and learn how to make certain pastries like cannolis in Italy. But, my main wish is to open my own bakery. I have always envisioned how it was going to look, with fairy lights hanging on the walls, a library that anyone can just pick up a book to read, to people coming in and ordering a selection of cupcakes on display.
Do you have a small business where members of the community might want to order and try some of your creations?
I started selling chocolate covered strawberries during Valentine’s Day and it was successful as I achieved in buying my Kitchen Aid Mixer, but now I sometimes sell pastries that I make during the weekend as my hit recently has been my pumpkin bread.
If you could describe yourself as one type of pastry what would it be and why?
I would describe myself as a birthday cake as I am always up to celebrating the small things if it’s getting an A on an exam or getting accepted to a certain college.
Other than baking, what other hobbies do you enjoy?
I enjoy playing the violin as it soothes my anxiety when I play, or traveling to a new place as I recently learned that I enjoy being on an airplane and exploring someplace new. During sophomore year I took a photography class which made me fascinated with the different lenses and styles of photography.
What classes do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy English the most as I enjoy writing about certain topics and learning about new literature.
Any advice for PCHS students?
Don’t be too hard on yourself in everything you do. I know the pressure of school, work, and your personal life can be quite overwhelming but you have to celebrate the things you have accomplished, no matter how small. Celebrate the little things like finally getting an A on that math test or finally raising your hand in class. But never doubt yourself.
Not only is Carol’s passion and determination to accomplish her career goals enlightening to witness, but also her attention to detail and true appreciation for food. Carol’s experience also shows that hobbies, such as baking, can be a great way for people to find an outlet and comfort in the midst of stress and anxiety. Through these hobbies, there is a chance that you might find your own passion too, just as Carol did. Check out some of Carol’s culinary creations at the end of this article!