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Ephrata teen wins state baking competition
Emily Holtz of Ephrata has won the SkillsUSA Skilled and Technical Sciences state competition for commercial baking. Holtz is a senior at Lancaster County Career and Technology Center in Mount Joy.
In June, she will go on to represent Pennsylvania at the national competition in Kansas City, Miss. According to the SkillsUSA website, contestants are challenged to meet production and quality standards expected by industry.
In order to participate in the state competition, Holtz, daughter of Dennis and Melaney Holtz, first had to win at the local classroom level. This required the completion of three projects: baking cinnamon muffins and an apple pie and decorating a cake. As the winner of that competition, Holtz went on to the district contest, held at Reading Muhlenberg CTC in January.
In 2013, she participated at the district level to gain experience and placed third. This year, she took first place in the district competition. Participants are given a list of tools to bring to the contest site, and only that equipment and the equipment provided on-site may be used. The district contest required Holtz to bake a coffee cake and a lattice-top cherry pie, as well as decorate a cake, all within the two-hour timeframe.
At the state commercial baking competition on April 19 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center, Holtz had five hours to complete a much larger range of products. She created sticky buns, shaped soft rolls, a braided loaf, butter cookies, chocolate muffins, apple pie, éclairs and cream puffs, and decorated a prebaked cake. Cher Harris, the executive pastry chef at The Hotel Hershey, was the chair of the competition and one of its three judges. Participants also got a tour of The Hotel Hershey kitchens, a highlight for Holtz. The state prize included scholarship money.
During the timed national competition, Holtz will need to bake six items. While she knows the product categories will include breads, rolls, sweet breads, cookies, puff pastry and pie, she will not be informed of the exact items until the competition begins. In addition, she will need to decorate a cake. She will also take a required 100-question multiple-choice test.
As she heads to Kansas City, Holtz looks forward to the professional networking with other student chefs and industry professionals. And as for the competition itself?
“My grandmother always tells me, ‘Do your best and let Jesus do the rest,’ and that always encourages me,” said Holtz.
Holtz’s baking and pastry arts instructor Tracie Gotshall will accompany her to nationals.
“Emily is a very motivated young lady who is passionate about baking and pastry arts,” said Gotshall. “She is enthusiastic and never gives up. Emily strives for perfection and does not stop practicing new skills or techniques until she masters them.”
According to Holtz’s mother, she comes from a long line for bakers.
“My family has always ‘cooked’ or baked in one way or another. My grandfather, who is now 97, always baked our birthday cakes and homemade breads. He is still able to share his cheesecake recipe from memory,” she said.
In the spring of Holtz’s tenth grade year, her mother, who works at the Brownstown LCCTC, began to encourage her daughter to check out CTC.
“I wanted her to see a different side of what education can be, another way to be successful other than a traditional college route. So many times kids embark on traditional paths because it is expected. I want her to wake up in the morning and be excited to go to work, to take pride in what she is doing,” her mother said. “That is what this whole year has been for her. She is excited to go to school, anticipating her next creation and challenge.”
Holtz’s next challenge will be attending The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia to get her bachelor of science in pastry arts. She hopes that will be followed by an internship or job as a pastry chef.
“Ultimately I’d like to open my own pastry and coffee shop on the beach in Ocean City, N. J.,” Holtz said.
Don’t bet against her.