NEWS-LEDGER — FEB 20, 2013 —
By Steve Marschke
You can now pick up a lemon tart, éclair or canalé – all made under the supervision of a trained pastry chef – at an unlikely place: the Collings West Sacramento Teen Center.
The new pastry shop, or patisserie, is open for your morning treats from 7-11 a.m. on weekdays at 1541 Merkley Avenue, and it is intended to become a place where West Sacramento teens can learn job skills.
The shop is headed up by Gary Campbell. He’s a self-described “local boy” who has trained for bakery skills at the Cordon Bleu in Portland and worked for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Las Vegas before layoffs at the hotel nudged him back to West Sacramento. He’s also a longtime assistant coach for the River City High School football team.
“The teen center is a nonprofit – we fight for the same dollars as other nonprofits,” explained Campbell, 53. But with support from sponsors like Agrium, the chemical company with a plant in West Sacramento, the center was able to start the new pastry shop venture.
Putting a kitchen in the teen center wasn’t a new idea.
“We offered a late lunch program for the kids anyway,” said Campbell. “The vision was to bring some type of culinary training for the students. We started the process over the last three years, getting the kitchen the way it is now. Most of the equipment is donated. The goal is to have a functioning retail bakery with practical experience (the students) can take with them.”
Right now, Campbell is working with several students from the nearby Heritage Peak Charter School, which offers academics up to the high school level. Lane Byers, a 20-year old recent graduate of Heritage Peak, has become Campbell’s “right hand man.”
“Lane’s been great,” Campbell said. “He started in the beginning, had no cooking experience, and he’s been coming on really fast. He started with the basic stuff, scaling and measuring. He’s at the point where he can make pretty much any of the elements we use here. Lane’s now working on his ‘piping’ and filling of items.”
Campbell hopes to expand and formalize the training at the pastry shop.
“Ultimately, our goal is to break even,” he said. “We’d like to, at some point, make it a more formal (internship) program, so we can offer a stipend and tools they can take with them when they graduate – a knife roll and chef’s coat.”
Those are the “tools of the trade” a baker is expected to own, said Campbell – the white coat along with a set of good-quality knives in a roll-up fabric knife holder.
Students need to get up a tad early to work at the bake shop.
“We’re starting at 5 o’clock – from 5 to 7 is our morning bake,” he said. “With baking, there are a lot of elements that go into each item. For cream puffs and éclairs, you have to make the shells first. For quiches, you make the shells separately. There are a lot of things we don’t do on a daily basis – they have to learn to manage their time and prep work, not just for that day, but for the week.”
The pastry shop just opened its doors with a “soft opening,” using word of mouth and flyers at nearby businesses. Later, the shop may expand into some lunchtime offerings.
“It’s been kind of hit-and-miss,” in the first few days, reports Campbell.
“I like the macaroons, and probably the canalés are my favorites,” answered Campbell. “Those are a basic custard, but with flour added so they hold their shape. They have some of the flavor of a crème brulée.”
That endorsement is seconded by a News-Ledger reporter – who also gave high marks to the shop’s lemon tarts – a favorite of teen center administrative assistant Jennifer Enright.
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