April 12, 2022

Some students at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts have graduated high school and jumped right into their culinary careers. Others take a more scenic route, exploring a wide variety of jobs throughout adulthood to figure out where their interests lie before finding their way to the food industry.

The latter was the case for Escoffier baking & pastry arts student Katie Sualog, a mother of two who had to try out quite a few different careers before deciding that her heart was in the kitchen. Juggling motherhood and her schoolwork, she’s on track to complete her program with perfect attendance, and, she hopes, with honors.

Find out how this dedicated mom and hardworking student is managing it all, and what she loves about attending Escoffier’s Austin campus.

From the “Friendly Island” to the Lone Star State

Katie has hospitality in both her blood and her culture. Her parents own a restaurant and hotel in her home country of Rota, a tiny island of just over 3,000 people near Guam.

Rota is nicknamed “The Friendly Island,” a moniker it lives up to. “If anybody needs help with anything, that’s what they get,” Katie explains. “If you need a box of sugar, we’ll give you a box of sugar. If you need food or a place to sleep… that’s what we do.”*

Like so many people, Katie’s path to her passion was not always clear. She tried out several different jobs and career paths throughout the years, taking stock of what she liked and what she didn’t along the way. After trying her hand working for a cruise line, as a hairdresser and cosmetologist, in customer service, and in sales, she still had yet to find the thing that made her light up. The journey took her from Rota to Guam, to Los Angeles, to North Carolina, to Virginia, and finally to Central Texas.

Katie had considered culinary school once, about 10 years ago. But at the time, she and her husband weren’t in a financial position to make that investment.

It wasn’t until she started helping her cousin on her new food truck that Katie realized how much she loved both cooking and connecting with the customers over food. That’s when she decided, “I’m going to go for it and focus on something that will help me grow. To be honest, I’ve put myself on the back burner for a very long time.”*

As a mom of two, it was time to do something for herself.

Katie Sualog and her family pose for a photo

“I Want to Graduate with Honors”

Once Katie decided to pursue her dream, she jumped right in with both feet. Just a few weeks after giving birth to her second son, she decided it was time to either get back into the workforce or go to school.

Revisiting that goal of culinary school, she began her research and found Escoffier. “Being a mom of a newborn, I figured it was best for me to stay home,” she says.* So she was pleased to see that Escoffier offered online programs that would let her stay home with the new baby while she got her education. She enrolled in Escoffier’s online culinary arts program, beginning in January 2021—just a month postpartum.

But very quickly, she realized she needed to make a change. While she had originally planned to start with culinary arts and then complete a pastry program later, she found the pastry pull too strong to ignore. So she transferred from culinary arts to baking and pastry, and found that it was a much better fit. She also transitioned from the online program to Escoffier’s Austin campus.

Austin Texas skyline next to a river

Still, living an hour away from Escoffier’s Austin campus means her schedule is tight. “I wake up at 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. Monday through Friday, and get out the door by 8:00 a.m. at the latest because my class starts at 10:00. After class, I leave straight from school, pick up the kids, make dinner, and get whatever I need done for the next day, then start all over!”*

Her aims are twofold—to graduate with honors, and to achieve perfect attendance in her on-campus blocks. Now that she’s settled on a career path, proving her commitment and consistency is incredibly important to her.

“I’m the second youngest of seven girls in my family,” she says. “My sisters have accomplished a ton, and I feel like I haven’t gone up to their level yet. I feel like I’m kind of the black sheep. My drive to graduate with honors is so I can say that I’m successful, too.”*

Katie Sualog, Escoffier Austin Baking & Pastry Student“I wanted to excel at Escoffier, and that’s what I’m doing.”
Katie Sualog, Escoffier Austin Baking & Pastry Student*

Katie says that one of the best things about Escoffier is the level of support that she’s received. If students have to miss a class, they may be given the chance to make up the work and missed hours, so their attendance record stays clean. Katie had to take advantage of this when her young son spent three days in the hospital. With makeup work and extra credit, she gained that time back and kept her perfect attendance record.

Culinary School in Austin Can Come with Outstanding Benefits

Katie has found that there are major benefits to attending Escoffier in Austin, both on-campus and off.

“The Austin campus has a lot to offer,” she says. “The instructors are very good about answering all of our questions.” Specifically, she gives a big shout-out to Lead Instructor Tammie Barnhill. “She is amazing! She helps us to move fast and get the work done. She knows a lot about the business side of things and she gives us the information that we really need.”*

Off campus, attending culinary school in a foodie city like Austin comes with opportunities to volunteer and connect with local chefs. Katie participated in the Austin Food & Wine Festival in November 2021, getting the chance to meet some well-known chefs, including the legendary BBQ pitmaster Rodney Scott.

Austin food and wine festival sign

And in February 2022, she volunteered to help with a bake sale to benefit Texas French Bread, a long-time Austin bakery that had a devastating fire in January.

“The doors that are opened by being at the Austin campus are mind-blowing. You get to meet with a lot of chefs that you probably wouldn’t be able to meet in your normal life. You can’t match that.”*

Katie’s Advice to Future Culinary & Pastry Students

As a mom of two and full-time student, Katie knows how important it is to carefully manage your schedule. “My advice to Escoffier students is to figure out how to manage your time wisely,” she says. “I can’t stress that enough.”*

That includes focusing on what you’re doing now, in the present moment – not whatever is waiting for you outside of the kitchen. “When you’re actually in class, focus on what the teacher is saying. Don’t be on your phone. We don’t do that in our class. It’s very, very detailed. We have to focus.”*

She also suggests that students make every effort to volunteer for off-campus events to create new learning and networking opportunities.

Finally, she encourages students to reach out when they need help. For example, when her son was in the hospital, Katie actively communicated with her Chef Instructors and the administrative staff to see how she could account for that work and class time in order to keep her attendance record spotless.

“Do not hesitate to ask for help,” she says. “I am always willing to help out the best way I can, even if it’s just a ride to or from school.”*

Katie Sualog, Escoffier Austin Baking & Pastry Student“I want to show my kids that if you truly love something, do not let anybody stop you from getting to your goal and reaching your dreams. Don’t let anyone or anything stop you.”
Katie Sualog, Escoffier Austin Baking & Pastry Associate Degree Program Student*

What’s in Katie’s Future?

With the end of her program approaching, Katie is working on her hands-on industry externship options. She’s been working with Ann Derrick, Director of Career Services, to polish her resume. “I love her,” Katie gushes. “I’ve had so many different career changes, so she helped me cater my resume to the industry… She’s very sweet and empathetic.”*

For one of her externships, she’s looking outside of the Austin area. She’s got her eye on Bouchon Bakery in Las Vegas, a Parisian-style pastry shop.

Croissants on a wooden plate

Currently, Katie runs a small home-based bakery, selling her cookies and biscotti at local farmers markets. In the future she hopes to open her own brick-and-mortar bakery. But she thinks it will be best to get some hands-on experience in both baking and running a business first. So she plans to work in the industry for a few years before she takes that step.

When she does, she intends on making croissants, cookies, her famous biscotti, and wedding cakes. Last on the list? She hopes to become a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, joining the ranks of highly accomplished women in the culinary world.

Katie Sualog, Escoffier Austin Baking & Pastry Student“Honestly, having the name Escoffier is a big, big deal. I want to represent the school. I want to earn the right to stand next to top chefs and be called a Chef.”
Katie Sualog, Escoffier Austin Baking & Pastry Student*

Where Can Culinary School Take You?

Watching Katie juggle school and motherhood with a smile on her face is an inspiration to anyone second-guessing their ability to pursue a culinary education while taking care of other responsibilities. Katie’s a wonderful example of a student who is committed and focused to her education, while also fitting it into her home and family duties.

We’re looking forward to seeing what she accomplishes in her externships and in her future!

If you, like Katie, have had a winding journey, we’d love to chat with you. Our Admissions Department can tell you more about Escoffier’s many hospitality, baking, and culinary programs and help you discover which one can get you closer to your goals. Contact us to learn more!

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*Information may not reflect every student’s experience. Results and outcomes may be based on several factors, such as geographical region or previous experience.