New degree offered at NECI - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

New degree offered at NECI

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The New England Culinary Institute has two bachelor's degree programs, and it recently added a third in baking and pastry. NECI instructors say the new degree plan, starting in October, will help the school provide more courses that fit the interests of its students.

NECI students will learn the details of their craft. From frosting elaborate wedding birthday cakes to chocolate cups made around balloons and chocolate hedgehog figures, they will just about do it all.

They're still perfecting their craft at school, but now a new program cooked up at the culinary institute will allow students to earn a bachelor's degree that focuses specifically on baking and pastry.

“We have very small class sizes here,” said Chef Kathleen Kessler, an instructor at NECI. “Never more than 12 students so that instructor has that free time available to help each student learn how to master skill sets."

Leah Goldsberry first became interested in high school.

“In high school I had a vocational program for culinary arts,” Goldsberry said as she frosted a birthday cake. “I thought I wanted to be a culinary student but through that program, I discovered that I liked baking more.”

Goldsberry's peer Samantha LeCroix said the skills they learn are often more difficult than they appear.

“Even just this chocolate seems like a simple garnish but to get it to look nice after, we have to learn how to temper,” LeCroix explained. “Little things like that and every day cooking that seem simple, there's more than meets the eye.”

The entire school has just 315 students, but Jean-Louis Gerin, who has been an executive chef for 30 years, says that puts the school's students in higher demand.

“As the owner of a business, I wanted a NECI grad. The way the program is designed and the hands-on, incredibly focused, small sized makes NECI grads super [good],” Gerin said.

Many graduates of the new program will go into the hotel catering business as well. The curriculum also focuses on management and critical thinking, skills he says are vital for any executive chef.

“At this level the chefs are involved much more in HR, management of people, the buying the selling, the cost to manage,” Gerin explained.

What the students create in their kitchens as part of the new program will be sold at La Brioche, the pastry shop that shares the building. It's located in downtown Montpelier.

School employees say they hope the new bachelor's degree program will help increase enrollment, helping its bottom line and putting the school back on more solid financial ground.

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