Kristen Battaglia, a New York City College of Technology (City Tech) senior majoring in hospitality management, has won the U.S. Pastry Competition’s first annual Junior Pastry Chef Challenge.
The competition took place last month at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan during the International Restaurant and Foodservice Show. Student competitors were required to present a chocolate showpiece (maximum 75% chocolate and minimum 25 percent sugar work/decoration) that reflected the theme “Women,” a plated dessert and petit fours. Battaglia beat nine other students from Monroe College and Pennsylvania School of Culinary Arts to take the grand prize.
Battaglia describes her showpiece as, “The vision of a women’s happiness echoed by music.” Her petit fours were a rendition of an opera cake which consisted of a chocolate sable cookie on the bottom topped with mocha butter cream, then a layer of almond sponge, a coffee infused ganache and, lastly, a transfer sheet of chocolate on top with a chocolate decoratioFor the plated dessert, she made a dish consisting of chocolate mousse, raspberry brulee, vanilla cremeux, chocolate cake and almond sable all covered by a shiny chocolate glaze and topped with a chocolate decoration.
Battaglia was mentored by City Tech alumnus Anthony Smith, who is an adjunct professor at the College. He is the pastry chef at the Cosmopolitan Club and was named 2012 Pastry Chef of the Year by the U.S. Pastry Competition. Battaglia was assisted by Sandy Marin, also a City Tech hospitality management student.
“Professor Smith motivated me to enter the competition,” she said. “He also gave generously of his time to mentor me. It was a lot of work, but I learned so much. The classes I took in baking, pastry and confectionary hotel show also prepared me for the competition.
Battaglia, who will be going to Paris for three weeks in June with City Tech’s Thomas Ahrens International Work and Study Program, had been in the College’s architectural technology program for two-and-a-half years before she took a speech class that changed her career trajectory.
“I always enjoyed baking but never thought of it as a career,” she explains. “Both my mom’s and dad’s side of the family baked and it was just something that I was always around.
“As part of the speech class, I made a speech to persuade everyone to make Seven Layer Cookies. My speech professor assumed I was a hospitality management major, but I had no idea the program existed,” she continues. “I checked it out and that day changed my major to hospitality management. It was one of the best decisions I ever made!”
Battaglia, an Italian American whose great grandparents are from Italy, knows her career plans involve pastry, but isn’t sure exactly what she wants to do. “Owning my own shop is a dream of mine but I want to work for someone else before I think about running my own business,” she says.
New York City College of Technology (City Tech) of The City University of New York (CUNY) is the largest public college of technology in New York State. Located at 300 Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn, the College enrolls more than 16,000 students in 65 baccalaureate, associate and specialized certificate programs.