REAL TALK: Why I decided to leave Google and go to pastry school

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For those who aren't familiar with my background, I moved to San Francisco in 2010 for a role at YouTube and subsequently moved to several other teams at Google...until 2016 when I quit to go to pastry school.  I'm unsurprisingly asked often why I was "crazy enough" to leave Google, and for pastry school of all places. 

As I was doing some spring (digital) cleaning this week, I came across the essay I submitted as part of my pastry school application, which touches on the motivation behind that decision, and I felt it was the right time to share it more broadly.

The sentiment of the essay still holds true today and has motivated many of my post-school decisions, including my increased involvement as a weekend manager/instructor at SF Cooking School (come take class with me in July!) and the choice to work at a food company full-time.

 

SF Cooking School Personal Statement - Spring 2016

To many folks from my modest hometown, my career path spells “success”: I graduated college and landed a respectable first job in finance during the 2008 crisis. In 2010, an even-better role at Google in the Bay Area surfaced, which has subsequently led to two promotions, a condo purchase, and life without lingering student debt. On paper, I’m doing things right.

However, despite its stellar coworkers and supposed prestige, this path has left me unfulfilled. Events in the past year, including a stage in Google’s pastry kitchen (a little-known employee perk I took advantage of), have served as a wake-up call to seek a career that combines my work ethic and passions. This zeal to have an impact in the food space drives my decision to apply to culinary school.

My omnipresent affinity for food most certainly stems from my family. My grandfather (whose Sicilian surname, Mollica, means “bread crumb”) opened a steakhouse in rural Pennsylvania in the 1970s that my uncle still runs today. Because of that restaurant I first marveled at a walk-in, learned that owners get called when the toilet breaks but not when celebrities stop in for dinner, and witnessed how small business owners serve important roles within their communities.

Closer to home, my mom earned a degree in nutrition and preached the ills of high fructose corn syrup long before it became fashionable to do so. My dad’s appetite and fast metabolism have been godsends to me, and we share a borderline-obsession with good bread that has fueled my baking habit.

Over time I’ve branched out baking-wise by experimenting with recipes, like perfecting my take on the chocolate chip cookie or testing how different fats affect pie crust. After taking recreational classes at several places, including Pastry Fundamentals and Baking Fundamentals at SFCS last year, I chartered into new waters by assuming bread duty for my in-laws’ Christmas festivities (poppyseed challah FTW) and by winning over a non-dessert eater with a slice -- then a second -- of my stone fruit and berry pie.

My goals as a prospective student in the Pastry Arts program are straightforward: to learn as much as I can, to encounter daily challenges, and to enter the world of food professionally with a toolkit that enables further growth and development.

As for post-SFCS plans, the following quote eloquently sums up my sentiments: Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase. By immersing myself completely, and exploring the various opportunities offered through this program, I will begin ascending those metaphorical stairs to determine where they lead.

This first step is inspired by and dedicated to many people: my dad, who loves all things sweet; my grandmother, who baked my inaugural piece of apple pie; my grandfather, who enriched his community through food; my husband, who encourages my baking and this journey toward fulfillment; and me, for having the will, courage, and tenacity to depart my current path and forge a new (wholly delicious!) one.