Baking with Grace: Souhegan High School grad competes at SkillsUSA
NASHUA – In seven hours, Grace Angulas had already made and baked two loaves of bread and one roll, onion pepper scones, a Danish, a pineapple pie, chocolate chip cookies, Patachou (dough for eclairs and cream puffs) and was putting the last touches on the cake she was decorating.
Her teacher and mentor, David Quimby, watched from the sidelines, agonizing silently with every detail until Angulas put down her tools five minutes before the clock signaled the end of time. He could finally breathe again- at least until the judging started.
Angulas, a 2018 graduate of Souhegan High School and part of the Nashua High School North culinary course through the district’s Career Technical Education program, competed this summer in the SkillsUSA Commercial Baking national finals in Kentucky. She placed ninth in the country.
Before putting seven different types of baked goods in the oven, Angulas also had to complete a 100-question exam on the science and math of baking (conversions, the purpose of flours, the gases that yeast emits, etc.), which would factor into her final score.
Her strongest of the items, she said, was probably the cake decorating. There were set specifications, such as, it had to have a certain number of yellow roses, green vines and say “Happy birthday, Vicky” on it. However, as an employee of Frederick’s Pastries in Amherst, this was practically second nature.
Her Danish may have been slightly overcooked, she said, but since she presented it nicely, the judges did not significantly reduce her score.
The whole experience was stressful, Angulas said, as she ran around, “frantic,” on concrete floors for seven hours, occasionally needing to take ibuprofen to dull the pain in her knee, as she was recovering from surgery.
“There were so many things to do,” she said, recalling how difficult it was to sit down for the mandatory 30-minute lunch break.
“It’s all time management, but I’m pretty good at that,” she said.
Quimby, who was called in to serve as a judge for another competition next door, kept racing back to check on her progress. Not being able to give her any feedback, he said, was torture.
Quimby had coached and taught Angulas for the last two years. She is the first of his students in the 42 years he has taught the class to compete in the baking championship.
He helped her practice recipes for months leading up to the competition and quizzed her on the bus to the airport.
“She has a lot of talent,” he said, “She’s wicked artistic … she will go places.”
Places, it turns out, such as the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, where she will begin her education in the fall.
Baking is her true culinary passion, Angulas said.
“I like the precision. I’m very detail oriented, and I think it’s something not everyone can do, to just throw a cake together … It’s the perfect career for me,” she said.
Having fallen love with the Nashua Culinary program, Angulas said she is a strong advocate for culinary students and for the CTE
“It’s been such a great experience,” she said. “It’s helped me see where I want to go and has helped me grow so much.”
Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.