Chef Jeanne Mancuso is originally from Pennsylvania, and has ten years of culinary experience. She started her culinary education at Le Cordon Bleu in Scottsdale, Arizona where she completed the requirements for the Le Cordon Bleu Pâtisserie and Baking Diploma. She continued her education at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts where she received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Culinary Management. Her final formal education was with the University of Phoenix where she was conferred the degree of Master of Arts in Education/Adult Education and Training.
She began her profession working as a pastry chef at a high-end restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona where she was responsible for teaching kitchen help. It is at this time that she realized her love for teaching in the industry and pursued her additional bachelor and master education. Soon after receiving her master’s degree, she accepted a teaching position with Culinard, the Culinary Institute of Virginia College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the pastry arts?
My mother was a French teacher and when I was a senior in high school we went to Paris, London, and Geneva. I loved how the bakery windows were displayed with such beautiful showpieces. It was Easter and I believe that is when I fell in love with the smell, look and design of chocolate show pieces. All the windows were displayed with huge chocolate eggs and rabbits carrying Easter baskets. The colors were amazing! I knew this is what I wanted to do: work with chocolate.
Is there an instructor from your own education that stands out in your memory?
There are many instructors that stand out in my mind at Le Cordon Blue. My instructor on cake decorating told a story about how he worked at the Jersey shore decorating and frosting over 400 cakes a day to be displayed in the store window. He frosted a seamless cake and kept reminding his students that they had to practice, practice, and practice.
What do you love most about being an educator with Culinard?
What I love most about being an educator at Culinard is student energy. Their inquisitiveness inspires my teaching to push them harder not only academically but personally. Taking students with no cooking ability and teaching them the process so that they leave with the ability to work in the industry is a great reward for me.
What’s a typical day at the Baton Rouge campus?
I start my day with lineup, inspecting uniforms, asking a bell ringer on the cooking process, and then heading to the kitchen. I do a demo on what we will be cooking that day. I read the recipe, talk about the different ingredients, spices and explain and show the importance of mise en place. Explaining to them if they understand the process all they have to do is change the ingredients. The complete demo ends with students tasting what was made. So they understand what I am looking for in a finished product. It is then the students turn to reproduce what they have just seen and learned. At the end of class, we clean the kitchen and proceed to the lecture room to go over the day and to prepare for the next day’s class. I thank each and every student and let them know I will enjoy seeing them tomorrow. We have a new system called Canvas, and I leave a message every day letting the students know they had a good day and what they will need for tomorrow.
Best piece of advice you give your students:
When you feel like quitting, think about why you started.
What is one of your proudest moments to date?
So many proud moments. It was my first pastry class 1020 PBC with Culinard and it was after Christmas break when it started, I wanted to show the students what a croquembouche was and have them produce one. They did an amazing job. Chef Antony Osborne, National Dean of Culinary, wrote an article expressing what a great job the students did reproducing a default piece. That’s when I knew I love what I do. Another of my proudest moments was seeing the look on the Executive Chef from Disney’s face when he saw our Disney display on his recent visit to Culinard. He just loved Mickey!
How would you describe your cooking philosophy in five words or less?
Practice, practice, practice, practice, practice.
What was the last dish you cooked at home?
As an Italian growing up in strong traditional family, cannoli had a quintessential role in my life. They were a prominent part of any dessert table or special occasion, happily placed next to a colorful cookie tray and sfogliatella (“lobster tails,” another cream-filled pastry). I like to make desserts that have a spin on them, my last dessert I made at home was a cannoli cake. It is my parents’ favorite cake, and making it for them with my own recipe was so rewarding. I use an Italian cream cake cut it three layers high. It’s then soaked with a rum simple syrup and filled with a mascarpone and ricotta cannoli cream that’s spotted with dark chocolate. An orange and cinnamon Italian buttercream ices the outside, before being glazed with a rich chocolate ganache and studded with almonds. They loved it and are difficult to please.