SCHENECTADY -- David Vazquez, a pastry student at SUNY Schenectady County Community College, hopes to one day own his own small bakery – maybe somewhere on Cape Cod.
But Vazquez, who said he specializes in scones and biscotti, decided to enroll in SUNY Schenectady’s baking program before taking on the financial and personal risk of turning a passion for baking into a business.
“I appreciate education, so I said let me get educated before I take that leap,” Vazquez said Tuesday.
Now, Vazquez will be able to add one more skill set before he embarks on his baking journey: chocolate making. SUNY Schenectady school leaders, joined by city officials, on Tuesday unveiled the latest advances in its well-regarded culinary program. The college, which recently purchased a custom-built food truck used by the school’s cooking students, plans to add a chocolate-making class to its baking and pastry program.
The college will take over a 3,000-square-foot space at the new Mill Artisan District development on lower State Street and build a special kitchen-lab facility to house the school’s new chocolatiers. The college’s new kitchen-lab facility will be dedicated to chocolate and other confectionery production, complete with temperature and humidity controls.
The facility, which the college has engaged an outside consultant to help design and construct, will be outfitted with roasters used to process the whole cocoa beans, the winnower used to sift and refine and the conche used to turn cocoa butter into smooth chocolate.
The specialty equipment and climate-controlled kitchen space will give students the opportunity to produce their own chocolate creations beginning with nothing more imported cocoa beans, experiencing first hand each step along the way.
“It’s a delicious science,” said Vanessa Traver, a SUNY Schenectady baking instructor and lead teacher for the new chocolate class. “As a pastry chef, we know what that end product looks like, but we don’t always know how it’s made. We will be starting basically with the cocoa beans.”
Traver took a special course in chocolate making at the Institute for Culinary Education in New York City as she prepared to teach the course, which school officials plan to make available in the fall.
At an event scheduled to announce the new chocolate class, college and city officials said the new course and planned facility were a symbol of the workforce development and collaborative developments taking place in the city. J.T. Pollard, the developer behind the Mill Artisan District, said he wanted to include the college in the development and incorporate hands-on learning into the broader artisan and craft vision of the project.
For the college’s students, the new chocolate class opens the door to an entire field within the culinary world, one that will give students a chance to develop and practice specialty skills. In time, the students may open a shop front to sell their handmade confections.
“I always thought the school was lacking something, something a little more refined,” Vazquez said. “It’s interesting to see the whole process from the bean; that’s something I want to be able to experience.”