When Scott Brunson attended the California Culinary Academy, he was nicknamed “the professor” by his peers for his extensive knowledge about food preparation. After working in the food services industry for awhile, Brunson decided to share his wisdom by being a chef instructor. Brunson has been teaching at Mission College since 1999. His baking and confectionery class is one of the many popular courses in the school’s Hospitality Management department.
“We want to allow students to practice and increase their baking skills to help them be better bakers,” Brunson says. A typical class begins with a lecture and demonstration. Then, students can independently perform hands-on baking.
Brunson says that his two classes, Fundamentals of Baking and Confectionery and Intermediate Baking and Confectionery, offer the same basic training as the baking schools do.
“We do scratch baking and we don’t use mixes or short cuts,” Brunson says. “Our students learn how to do all the basic doughs, like puff pastries, croissants, Danish doughs, and of course, yeast breads and desserts. There are things you’d need to know that aren’t in cookbooks. For example, we teach students about using scales. Most people don’t have scales at home but we use them here in class. Students also learn how to use pastry tools and different kinds of pots and pans.”
“We also teach about advanced decorating techniques, such as cake decorations or fancy sauce decorations when you use two different sauces,” Brunson continues. “We don’t make obscenely large cakes like what you might see on TV, but we do other stuff that people might see on TV, such as chocolate sculpture work and truffles. We make tiered cakes in the advanced class.”
According to Brunson, his students come from a variety of backgrounds. About 60 percent of the students in his baking classes are enrolled in Mission College’s Hospitality Management program. Other students are home cooks or culinary professionals who want to enhance their pastry making skills.
Hong Duong, a student in this semester’s intermediate baking class, is excited to learn new techniques.
“I do bake at home, but I do simple baking,” Duong says. “My favorite thing I’ve made so far in this class is the coffee soufflé.”
Michele Posey, another student in the class, is enrolled in the school’s Hospitality Management program.
“I want to open up a small café someday and offer both pastries and regular food,” Posey says.
Some of Brunson’s former students, such as Michelle Ng and Kathleen DeManti, have gone on to become professional bakers.
“In this class, I learned all the basics,” says Ng, a full-time engineer who moonlights as a baker. “For example, I didn’t just learn how to make a sponge cake, but I also learned ways to change it up [by adding different ingredients.]”
Kathleen DeManti owns A Spoonful of Sugar, a bakery offering specialty cakes.
“I took both of [Scott Brunson’s] baking classes,” DeManti says. “His classes helped me to be comfortable with working in a big kitchen and trying out new recipes. He is good at explaining how things work.”