Ulster BOCES Graduate from Wallkill High School Lands Job at Culinary Institute of America
Since graduating high school, Angelina Violante, a 2018 graduate of the Wallkill Central School District who attended the Ulster BOCES Career & Technical Center’s Culinary Arts program, has been following her passion for baking. Her Ulster BOCES training, higher education, and work experience has led her to a position as a pastry chef at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), widely recognized as the world’s premier culinary college.
Graduating as the valedictorian of her class at Ulster BOCES, and summa cum laude from the CIA, where she earned a bachelor's degree in Baking and Pastry Arts and Food Management in 2021, Angelina left a lasting impression on her teachers at the Career & Technical Center, as well as the country at large.
Known for her technical prowess and creative experimentation, Angelina has always stood out as a star baker. In 2017, in her junior year of high school, she was a member of the Ulster BOCES team whose recipe took home first place in NASA’s HUNCH (High school students United with NASA to Create Hardware) Challenge. The team’s creation, a fruit-based dessert, was later sent as part of a care package to six astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
“Angelina is the kind of young professional you don’t forget,” says one of her former teachers, Chef Linda Carter. “She was very dedicated to her culinary career. She continues to make me very proud to call her a former student.”
Speaking of her time at the Ulster BOCES Career & Technical Center, she says, “It felt like pre-college, and it was the highlight of my day.”
“I always knew I loved creating in the kitchen,” Angelina says, recalling how she grew up in the kitchen baking with her mother and great-grandmother. “I loved how you could take a bunch of ingredients and turn them into so many different things.” By using different ratios, explains the multi-talented, math-loving chef, the same basic ingredients can be turned into cookies, cakes, or even breads.
Angelina first became aware of some of the programs Ulster BOCES offers when her brother entered the Aviation program, but her interest was truly ignited when representatives from Ulster BOCES visited her classroom during her sophomore year of high school, introducing her to the Culinary Arts program.
“I already loved cooking and baking, and I was so excited to learn I could do this at school,” she remembers. Angelina began the Culinary Arts program at the start of her junior year and knew right away that it was a perfect fit. Besides learning the basics of kitchen safety, she gained career-ready skills in time management and organization, as well as “the kind of interpersonal skills that help you succeed as part of a team,” she says.
In addition to making friends from all over the region, Angelina says she enjoyed the benefits of learning from her three instructors. “Each brought their own distinct styles and experience ‘to the table’ and helped me become a more well-rounded chef,” she says. “But Chef Carter, who specializes in pastries, really took me under her wing,” she adds. “She always encouraged me and pushed me to do better.”
Angelina thrived in the kitchen at BOCES, particularly enjoying the way other subjects would often be applied in the learning. For instance, mathematical and scientific concepts were often needed, as the young professionals learned how using different types of emulsions and oils could alter a recipe. This came in handy, she says, when she and her teammates were creating the famous dessert that made its way into the far-off regions of space.
The team was tasked with developing a tasty recipe that was not only low calorie, but would also withstand the effects of microgravity and be able to be reconstituted easily during the rehydration process. They chose to create a strawberry rhubarb crisp, hoping to bring “a little taste of summer” to the astronauts. In the finals, they were competing with nine other teams from across the nation, so the pressure was on.
“We learned to find and use each other’s individual strengths, then also find strengths as a group where we would pool ideas together,” she says. For example, Angelina’s love of math and data helped the team stay within NASA’s strict guidelines for the amount of carbohydrates and sugar in their dessert. Using data-analyzing software, Angelina and her teammates were able to calculate the nutritional breakdown of one serving of the crisp, applying trial and error until they got it just right.
“It was an incredible experience where I learned skills that would help me throughout my career,” says Angelina.
After graduating, Angelina continued to thrive in the baking and pastry industry. While at the CIA, she worked in Frida’s Bakery and the Apple Pie Bakery, perfecting her skills with breads and pastries. She also completed an “externship” at the Sea Island Resort in Georgia, where she experienced working on a restaurant team and experimenting with her own pastry creations. Later, she enjoyed great success as the head pastry chef at The Roundhouse Restaurant in Beacon. In this role, she had more independence and creativity than ever. She delighted in experimenting with various natural ingredients, offering both gluten-free and vegan options, creating a rich palette of flavors and textures that capture the spirit of the seasons.
How does a creamy chocolate ganache ribbon paired with crunchy chocolate “soil” crumbles, a scoop of refreshing ruby chocolate ice cream, and a soft almond cake topped off with dollops of marshmallowy meringue sound? What about a warm persimmon upside-down cake accompanied by roasted persimmon jam, ginger ice cream, oat crumble, and blood-orange accents? These are just two of Angelina’s temptations that were offered to diners of The Roundhouse. Delicious!
As for her new job at the CIA, Angelina says she is very excited to begin and is excited for the new challenges before her, which will include creating desserts and pastries for weddings, galas, conferences, and other events. “I am looking forward to working in an environment with room for growth and continued learning."