Baking with Zanetta

I started using baking as a release when I moved into my first apartment at 18.

I can’t say that I found cooking and baking until then, until I was out on my own. I was going to school to become a lawyer. I worked at an office supply store and soon moved into a sales position at a financial institution. I taught myself to cook and bake and found that I enjoyed it very much. So much that it evolved into a total obsession. It got to the point that cooking dinner or baking cookies was the best part of my day.

When the crash happened in 2008-2009 and I turned 21, the bank I worked for could no longer securitize funding. This meant we were all out of work.  I then decided to change my path. I enrolled in culinary school and totally immersed myself in it. My life revolved around the 40-mile commute to school. I worked as a waitress, because no one wanted an inexperienced kid in their kitchen. Soon, I landed a job at a tiny bakery working under an abusive boss.

This being my first kitchen experience, I started to question whether I made the right decision. After only months in, I left the bakery and sought other opportunities. I still had over a year of schooling to go.

After much searching, a popular fine-dining restaurant gave me an amazing opportunity –to work as their pastry chef. Working and juggling school was very stressful. Some days I literally spent 16 hours on my feet, covered in flour, standing between a hot oven and a prep table. Heavy lifting, dirty, sweaty, greasy kitchen work, homework, practical finals, skill assessments, and food critiques is what my life consisted of. I loved it. That’s when I knew I made the right decision.

The first time my food was mentioned in a review, they said, “the blueberry lavender cheesecake was just divine”.  That statement, that tiny little victory made every minute of the heat, flour in my hair, commuting, studying, lack of sleep, early mornings, excessive coffee, abusive bosses, and lack of money, so worth it. In 2011 I received my degree in Baking and Pastry.

Now I am so lucky to be at The Leonardo. The opportunity to be surrounded by curious individuals and a staff full of passionate, talented people is like nothing else.  We designed the menu to reflect the innovative and artistic nature of this wonderful place.

Some of things I’ve accomplished here at The Leo have been: Opening Salt Bistro, planting a garden of unique herbs and greens, running educational programming (Libations at The Leo, Create What You Crave and Chocolates & Confections) and designing a catering program to fit the needs of the museum clientele.  I am so excited that I’ve had the opportunity to help build a food program from the ground up. Not only have I grown as a chef, but as a person. I look forward what we will continue to accomplish in the future.