We spoke to Chef Ashlea Tobeck two weeks before her first full-time Pastry Arts cohort was set to start. No stranger to the school, Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts grad, seasoned Pastry Arts substitute and Home Cook instructor, as well as Career Development professor, Tobeck is already an asset to the school, leveraging her pastry expertise and inherent teaching skills. Even after a long morning of scrubbing down her soon-to-be kitchen classroom, Tobeck was full of enthusiasm for her new role – planning assignments, discussing her philosophies, and marveling at her good fortune to both cook and teach.
Escoffier: You’re about to have a class of your own, how are you feeling?
Tobeck: It’s really, really exciting. I cannot wait! Because I was an Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts student, I have very high standards of what our students should leave with. My students will say that I make everybody work too hard…I already have homework assignments for each week.
Escoffier: What type of assignments?
Tobeck: Being in Career Development I see where our students end up (I’m with them the last five days of the program). When they are still scared of kitchen math, [I realize that] they need to do more kitchen math throughout the program. We also need to make our students realize how much they learn, make them realize that they are repeating themselves. How many times did they really make custard? Certainly more than once.
Escoffier: As a teacher, do you have a philosophy?
Tobeck: Chef Graham’s teaching philosophy is that we can teach you to cook in six weeks. The first six weeks, that is the fundamentals. My goal is to make that more obvious to students so they won’t be so scared of it. My goal is to teach them to be completely independent of a recipe – to stop and think about what is going into the plate.
Escoffier: What made you want to teach?
Tobeck: I am a teacher; I was raised by teachers. I have my degrees in education and taught special education before I was in pastry. As much as I tried to not be a teacher, I am a teacher. I love it. I am a teacher.
Escoffier: Tell us a bit about your background, how did you end up in pastry?
Tobeck: I had a specialty cake business on the side while I was teaching. I made almost twice as much baking cakes on evenings and weekends as I did teaching full-time. That was when I decided to come to pastry school. I could make more baking cake – which makes me happy – than teaching. Most recently I was the pastry chef for Salt Bistro, technically for Salt and Colterra, but worked out of the kitchen at Salt. (Editor’s note: Have you tried Salt’s dangerously good salted caramel torte? Yes; she can make those.)
Escoffier: Tell us what you are most excited about to be teaching at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts?
Tobeck: Teaching is the best of both worlds for me. I get to be a teacher, I don’t have to suppress that side of me, and I don’t have to do the craziness of the [restaurant] kitchen. The fact that I get to have a life and cook all day…that’s pretty dang cool!