Chef Christiana Barnett’s passion for culinary arose early in life, from constantly moving and living abroad in countries such as Italy and Bermuda. Her family became fully immersed in the unique fresh, local and seasonal foods in every new locale they’d move to. While in Bermuda, Barnett participated in several culinary competitions and was extended guidance from some of the area’s leading chefs.
After graduating from Florida State College, Barnett trained in a variety of establishments from Walt Disney World Resort to a boutique castle hotel in Scotland. Chef Barnett has since been a Chef Instructor at Culinard, the Culinary Institute of Virginia College in Jacksonville with over 18 years of culinary and pastry experience in her repertoire.
What is one of your proudest career moments to date?
When I taught our librarian Kelly how to fondant ice a cake.
How would you describe your cooking philosophy in five words or less?
Put love in it.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the culinary arts?
My family and travels have inspired me the most. My dad was in the Navy, so we traveled a lot
when I was young. My parents are adventurous and have always tried local cuisine, many times not even havi
ng a clue what we’d ordered. We took weekend train trips to the markets, where I’d be amazed by the varieties of fish and produce. We lived in Bermuda for a while, and we were quickly immersed to Bermuda’s unique agricultural fair which was like nothing I’d ever seen before. I feel extremely lucky to have been exposed to such a variety of foods growing up, and that my family was excited by the opportunity as well.
Finally, what was the last dish you cooked at home?
Chocolate beet cake, which is quickly becoming my new favorite dish.
Is there an instructor from your own education who stands out in yourmemory?
Chef Harold and Chef Grigsby, and the many corny sayings that we as instructo
rs often say. “Time to lean? Time to clean!” “Don’t pith me off” “A pint a pound the world around” Those little things help you remember the lessons.
What do you love most about being an educator with Culinard the Culinary Institute of Virginia College?
That AH-HA moment when a student gets it. It doesn’t always happen in class, but it sometimes occurs when they are on externship or at their first job. They’ll call or send an e-mail, and are so excited!
Walk us through a typical day on campus?
I am constantly thinking ahead. What are we doing in class next week? Do I have the product for it? How can I break down the lesson into smaller bits for the students? Then I finally start to focus on the current day. A day can range from pulling product for the day’s formulas, reviewing PowerPoints, and searching the web for examples of what we are making. I think it is important to include various forms of presentation. The internet gives us so many options to truly show the students what possibilities there are for the products.
Best piece of advice you give your students?
Keep learning because even I still don’t know it all. I have learned so much since I started teaching. The students have made mistakes that I didn’t know were possible, but we have also discovered together that it doesn’t have to be a mistake. On the job I may have just thrown the product away, but because we have more time in class, we will reevaluate the situation and try to see what we can do.