Laura Knapp

2009 Recipient

Previously an event planner, Laura Knapp found she was not content with a desk job, but moreover, she loves to bake. Laura enrolled in L’Art de la Pâtisserie at The French Pastry School at City College of Chicago in January 2009. Throughout the 24 weeks of her education, Laura gained confidence, realizing how capable she is of recreating the recipes and techniques her Chef Instructors taught her, while at the same time being challenged. She encountered challenges every day, especially in things she hadn’t previously imagined, like using bottomless cake rings, or piping. "I have mental competitions with myself," said Laura, "and sometimes I win."

Laura’s favorite topic in the 24-week program was bread. "I just want to make bread all day. It’s relatively simple: There are basically four main ingredients," she explained, "but you have to know how to shape it and ferment it and bake it – that makes one recipe totally different from another and shows you what a craft it is." Laura developed a real appreciation for this craft through the apprentice-style training, as well as a great appreciation for her teachers, "the best people in the business," she said, "and they’re right there, hands-on, in person! It’s like being in college and learning from the Pulitzer Prize winning professors instead of the TA’s."

"With anything you do afterwards, whether it’s in chocolate or bread, you can do it because you have the foundation. I know this is why I went here."

She truly realized what a great foundation she received when Laura staged and worked with others outside school. "With anything you do afterwards, whether it’s in chocolate or bread, you can do it because you have the foundation. I know this is why I went here." Laura also formed strong bonds with her classmates and found that "everybody is happy here. Though we might have different final goals, we’re all driven to be the best in this industry. Once you have a focus, you can get even more focused. You discover a new passion you didn’t know you had. You have so much support, so much camaraderie."

Following graduation, Laura took a position as an Intern at The French Pastry School where she continues to work alongside her mentors every day. After gaining more experience in the field, she hopes to one day own her own business in a mid-size city. She imagines the creative freedom of having her own place will be rewarding, and aims to find a location that is not already turned on to French pastry. She wants "to be a big fish in a small pond." Originally from South Carolina, Laura wants to first expand on her experience, and is thinking about the northwest as her next move.