Gage Hess- Culinary Arts Student
Welcome to Baker College’s Spotlight feature, a series of brief interviews with notable BC students, faculty and alumni who are making news and reaching new heights in their educational and professional pursuits.
This edition of Spotlight features Baker College Culinary Institute of Michigan (CIM) student, Gage Hess. Hess, who is pursuing a degree in Culinary Arts, was recently recognized by CAFÉ (Center for the Advancement of Foodservice Education) as the organization’s first-ever Student of the Year. Here we learn more about Gage and his educational and professional path and passions.
Baker College (BC): Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences with our readers, Gage. We know you are currently working towards a Culinary Arts degree at the CIM. Tell us why you chose Baker College/CIM for your higher ed pursuits?
Gage Hess (GH): After completing one year of study and gaining a certificate in the culinary arts from another school, I realized that I wanted to continue my education. I then found the CIM, after first hearing about it from a previous chef instructor. I saw there were so many opportunities to grow at the CIM, as a student and chef, so I applied and got connected almost immediately.
BC: It seems the CIM has been a great fit for you! Were you always interested in food/the culinary arts? What or who inspired you to seek a professional career in the culinary field?
GH: After completing High School, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, so I followed my brother and attended Lake Superior State University, where I studied Conservation Biology. After that year, however, I spent some time reflecting, and realized that wasn’t what I wanted. I then applied and was accepted to a local college near my hometown, which offered a culinary program. Unfortunately, though, due to the challenges of the pandemic, that program had to be discontinued. Looking to follow my newly-discovered passion, I applied to the Culinary Institute of Michigan, where I began truly honing my skills in the kitchen.
BC: We’re happy you found your way to the CIM! Speaking of, what do you like best about your culinary studies at the CIM? Conversely, what do you find most challenging?
GH: What I enjoy most about the CIM is how welcoming all of the staff is to every student. Starting from the first lecture classes, you get treated like family. I believe that everyone who works there is trying to help you succeed after graduation.
That said, because all of the staff want you to succeed in the workplace, the chefs and instructors expect you to be your best, coming to class prepared and ready for the day, every time. Taking on extra responsibilities, such as competitions, raise expectations ever further…meaning there are plenty of opportunities, but also challenges.
BC: Speaking of competitions, we understand you have earned some recent American Culinary Federation competition honors. Do you enjoy culinary competition? Tell us a bit about those experiences.
GH: Yes, I have earned three silver medals in my time competing thus far. While earning these medals has been a great experience, I am now looking forward to even bigger competitions, and earning more and higher honors. I very much enjoy competing, especially since my high school sports career was cut short due to injury, and I was hoping to find something to help fill that competitive gap. Learning from all of the chefs, especially my coach, Chef Chris Sowa, has made competition that much more rewarding.
BC: Speaking of rewards…let’s talk about your recent CAFÉ Student of the Year recognition and scholarship…their first ever. What did it take to earn this honor, and what does it mean to you?
GH: I first heard about the CAFÉ scholarship from CIM Program Director, Jamie Leroux, who told me she thought I would be a great candidate. I immediately got to work putting together the requirements for the application! Earning CAFÉ’s first-ever Student of the Year scholarship means a lot to me…I feel as though I have accomplished something beyond just earning a traditional scholarship.
BC: Congratulations on what sounds like a very well-deserved honor. We understand you also are keeping busy by serving as the co-president of your ACF (American Culinary Federation) student chapter. What does that role entail? What inspired you to take on this leadership position?
GH: After I was elected co-president of our ACF chapter, I immediately started thinking about ideas that would get my classmates more involved in our monthly chapter meetings. These meetings consist of cooking demonstrations, field trips, cooking competitions with our classmates, fundraising events and other fun activities that get more people involved, outside of the lab atmosphere. I was inspired to take on this position thanks to my Dad. He is someone I look up to, and he always told me to take any opportunity I could find that would help further my career and love for cooking.
BC: Sounds like some great advice! Speaking of sharing wisdom…what best piece of advice would you share with future college students…especially those considering a career in culinary?
GH: Get involved and get out of your comfort zone! I think the most important thing for any college student is to experience the most that you can. Go to meetings, go to extracurricular activities, find new friends, find people that have the same interests as you. Being a culinary student, you may feel overwhelmed once you get into labs, so find something that will make those 10-hour days not feel quite as stressful!
BC: Well said! And how do you feel your time at Baker College/CIM has contributed to your successes to date?
GH: I definitely believe the opportunities and successes that the CIM has given, are things I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else. Something else that has contributed to my successes is simply time. If I had come to the CIM right after High School, I don’t think I would have found the same level of success as I have now. I have matured and changed over the couple of years it took me to figure out what I wanted to do for my career, and that has made my experience at the CIM that much better.
BC: We’re thrilled that your journey and successes have involved the CIM. What would you want people to know about Baker College/CIM?
GH: Something I would have liked to know more about before attending Baker College/CIM, is the number of scholarships that are available, and the number of opportunities to apply for RA and SLLC positions. I would encourage folks to definitely watch their emails for opportunities, because there are a lot!
BC: Thank you again for sharing your story. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
GH: I would like to thank Baker College/CIM, and especially Jamie Leroux, for believing in me to earn this scholarship. I would also like to thank my parents for believing in me, while changing colleges, and helping me to accomplish anything I put my mind to.
For more information on Baker College’s Culinary Institute of Michigan, visit their webpage on baker.edu/cim.