Section: Features

New pastry chef sweetens the deal for Peirce diners

New pastry chef sweetens the deal for Peirce diners

Courtesy of Kim Novak

by Frances Saux

There’s a new face in Peirce Hall’s kitchen. Katie Henderson, the dining hall’s new pastry chef, joined the AVI staff last month.

Her job keeps her busy. On a recent morning, several frosted cakes sat on a rack, while a gingerbread house’s pieces spread across a baking sheet underneath.

The gingerbread is for a special holiday-themed display, Henderson said. Prior to her arrival, Peirce had not have a chef specializing in desserts on staff since 2010.

AVI Resident Director Kim Novak had wanted to hire a pastry chef since arriving at Kenyon three years ago, but it took until now to find the money for it. Novak said she rearranged funds in the AVI labor budget by limiting overtime hours and drawing money out of the general budget so she could afford to add the position. “Pastry chefs are special and you want to pay them appropriately,” Novak said.

Some students think the hire is long overdue. Anna Libertin ’18 said she often noticed low dessert quality. Peirce’s old desserts often “looked good but tasted like nothing,” she said.

Novak said Henderson is also training other AVI employees to make desserts, increasing the overall skill of the staff.

Henderson, for her part, is enthusiastic about the job. Soon after arriving on campus, she approached students, offering cupcakes and asking for suggestions. She said she is open to feedback and would love to try students’ personal recipes. “My goal is to make all of you happy,” Henderson said. She has several goals for Peirce. First, she would like to provide some dessert staples, like cookies, which students could always expect to find. She also aims to offer two to three dessert options per meal.

Henderson joked that as a child she did nothing but play outside and bake. After being home-schooled during her high school years, she enrolled in a culinary arts program at  the Bradford School in Columbus at age 17. Since graduating, she has held several large-scale food production jobs—including a development position for Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams— but has also worked at mom-and-pop bakeries in the Columbus area.

Henderson said her new job at Kenyon combines the best of both worlds, because she both manages larger baking operations and works with her hands. For this year’s Peircegiving meal, she  put together 250 pounds of mousse and 1,000 strawberries, which students finished over the course of three hours.

Will Nichols ’19 questioned the decision to spend money hiring a pastry chef. “It’s a waste of money,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.” He reconsidered, however, saying, “If desserts are improving, then it’s worth it.”

Libertin thinks Henderson offers a lot to look forward to. “As college students, we’re really stressed,” Libertin said. “Sometimes we need a little sweetness in our lives.”

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