Cooking and baking may be Nicole Renard’s passion, but sharing her creations with others and seeing them smile as they try her food is her favorite thing of all.
“It brings me so much joy when people light up after tasting one of my treats,” said the senior television and broadcast journalism major.
As a freshman at Chapman, Renard missed having access to a kitchen, so she would bake pastries at her friends’ apartments and share them with people on campus. Little did she know that her sharing would lead her to a job as a pastry chef at the Randall Dining Commons.
“It’s so fun. It’s one of the biggest blessings that has happened to me in my Chapman career because it’s something I never expected. It’s not something that I applied for, I wasn’t looking for a job, I didn’t think that would ever be a job of mine,” Renard said.
Renard works at the cafeteria once or twice a week, baking the special pastry of the day. Her most famous creation is the “magic” cookie bar, which she turned into a Thursday tradition after a student asked her if she could make them every week.
“I don’t have a favorite pastry. I have the biggest sweet tooth ever so, honestly, I’m game for anything,” said Dayna Sipila, a junior integrated education studies major. “I like (the magic cookie bars) because they are sweet and I’m not picky. The caf cookies are the best, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes you need something different.”
Renard said that she has learned a lot from working at the cafeteria, including Spanish.
“I learned how to cook in a commercial-sized kitchen, how to mass produce, how to bake in a real kitchen and then I thought about connecting my passions for TV and food. That’s where the passion for me to have my own cooking show started,” Renard said.
“I love having friends help me (make my videos) because it’s so hard and nearly impossible to do them by myself. I know how to be behind and in front of the camera, but I can’t do both at the same time,” Renard said.
Renard’s favorite video to make was the one where she and her sister made hummingbird cake.
“My sister and I were making it for a Christmas party and we were running late, so in order to cool the cake off, we stuck it outside in the snow,” Renard said. “Then my dad came in the kitchen and we had a dance party to ‘Watch Me Whip’ as we whipped the frosting. It was so funny.”
Renard’s blog also includes many of the recipes she tries in her videos as well as recipes she has used in the cafeteria. Some pictures on the blog even feature the busy cafeteria in the background and the cafeteria’s white plates.
“My goal is to be on ‘Good Morning America’ but I also do want to have my own show where I travel to different countries to learn how to cook different ethnic foods so that’ll be more cooking rather than pastry,” Renard said.
She said that once she is done with the television aspect of the career, she would like to open a bakery, where she can bring back all of her skills from working at the cafeteria.
“I kind of disqualified myself in terms of ever being a pastry chef or something like that because I don’t have any formal training and it’s not like I grew up thinking, ‘Oh, I want to be a baker.’ It was just something I loved doing so the fact that I can do that and get paid for it and make so many students happy is one of the coolest things ever,” Renard said.