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Kareena Dennis brings home gold at SkillsUSA competition

Kareena Dennis

SPRINGVILLE — The 2014 SkillsUSA New York State Leadership and Skills Conference Postsecondary Championship held at Alfred State in Wellsville, N.Y. pitted students from three different schools in numerous career and technical fields, from carpentry to culinary arts. Now, one local student can bring home the gold medal.

Springville’s own Kareena Dennis, a senior at Alfred State majoring in baking production and management, competed and won the gold medal in commercial baking.

Dennis, along with four other students from around New York, first had to complete two written exams that tested their culinary knowledge, including weights, measurements, kitchen safety, ingredient handling, properties of ingredients and customer service. The students must score at least 70 percent, in order to pass the exam.

Next, they competed in the performance portion of the competition, in which they baked seven different tasty treats, including cookies, pecan pie, pastries and cream puffs. These baked goods were then judged on their external and internal appearance, taste and if they were the correct size.

But what makes this competition unique is the numerous other areas that are judged just as much as the finished product. Following proper safety guidelines outlined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is one of the next biggest areas judged. Everything from proper uniform to efficiency with both ingredients and time to proper sanitation are all part of the final score.

Along with the baking, another key part of the performance portion is properly icing and decorating a cake. The cakes are judged on the symmetry of the design, the evenness of the icing, neatness of the borders and following the exact instructions of the cake order.

Dennis has always had a love for baking and when her professors saw her devotion and skill for the trade, they recommended her for SkillsUSA.

“My teacher encouraged me to do it because she believes I’m a really good student,” said Dennis. “I work really hard and I’m really passionate about what I do and she saw that.”

Now, because she won at the state level, she gets to travel to Kansas City to compete in the National Leadership and Skills Competition, which goes from June 23-27, to represent New York in the commercial baking competition.

Dennis commended Alfred State for the amount of help the school has provided her and noted that, without this baking production and management program, she would not be at the level she is at, today.

“They really take the time to teach you individually and get your skills up to where they need to be, for you to compete in the field,” said Dennis. “I went in and didn’t know a thing and now I can walk into any job I want and be successful at it.”

As her time in college winds down, Dennis is ahead of the game and has already made a plan for her entire baking career. If everything goes as she plans, she will be set all the way until she decides to retire.

“I plan on doing more schooling and hoping to get accepted into a school like the Culinary Institute of America,” said Dennis.

“After that, I hope to work all over the field like in a few bakeries, as a pastry chef and I would like to travel as a pastry chef. Then, when I’m older and feel like I’m set, I want to settle down and open my own place up.”


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