(This article appeared in the Winter 2020 issue of Pastry Arts Magazine)
Culinary Arts Program Coordinator
Bristol Community College, Fall River, MA
A high school graduate who became a stay-at-home Mom in her early twenties, Gloria Cabral had always been drawn to artistic disciplines. In her free time, she took classes in candy, painting and quilting and later taught classes in these crafts to help with the family resources. Then, at the age of 37, when her oldest son went off to college, Gloria decided to follow his lead, and received a Certificate Degree in Culinary Arts from Bristol Community College (BCC) in 1999. From there she entered Johnson and Wales University (JWU) to earn an Associate Applied Science Degree in Baking and Pastry Arts in 2001, followed by a Bachelor of Science in Baking and Pastry Arts in 2002. While attending JWU, she continued courses at BCC to earn a Certificate in Computer Information Systems and Associate Degree in General Studies. Not one to sit on her laurels, while attending classes, Gloria worked for the Le Meridien Boston and Catering Collaborative in Providence, Rhode Island.
Gloria was hired as a lab aide at Bristol Community College in 2002. BCC is an inner-city college that caters to mostly low-income, single parent families, or non-traditional students. In 2003, she then was hired as an adjunct then to a full-time faculty chef-instructor. While teaching culinary pastry classes, Gloria constructed the Associates Degree Program for Baking and Pastry Arts. This is a two-year program within the Culinary Arts Degree.
Gloria’s higher education classes continued both in the educational and vocational levels. She earned a Master’s Degree in Education, and then another one in the Science of Management. Vocationally, her education has been from top chefs and the Massachusetts Department of Education, where she earned her Professional Teacher’s Licensure in Commercial Baking.
Throughout her professional career, Gloria has actively participated in many community and professional programs, such as the American Culinary Federation. She is certified as a Certified Culinary Educator and Working Pastry Chef through the American Culinary Federation. In 2017, she received her fellowship with the Academy of Chefs, along with many other accolades. She is also an ACF Certification Evaluator. ACF has given her opportunities through the Adopt-A-Ship Program that had her teaching at naval bases and aircraft carriers traveling to France and Italy.
What made you decide to become a teacher?
I knew I wanted to be a teacher because, when I was a young student, it was very difficult, and I did not have guidance. I became my own leader to make things happen. If I had had some educational and vocational guidance, I feel that I would have reached higher goals earlier and with fewer life difficulties.
What specific topics of pastry and baking do you teach?
As an instructor, I teach every aspect of the baking and pastry arts program. Our program is small and mighty. My graduating classes have ranged from two to 16, averaging ten students. Having students for two-plus years, you become more than an instructor. I have attended weddings, communions, birthdays and funerals, been a Matron-of-Honor, and in one instance went to the funeral home to make the funeral arrangements.
Students have left the program (one to five years), then decided to come back to finish. They stay in contact through social media and school functions. The program enforces work ethics through faculty collaboration, attendance and strict guidelines. We tell them when they graduate, “You are not a chef, but you have learned the employer expectations in the workforce. Now go out and be the person you would like to hire.”
I’m sure you have some successful graduates – tell us about one of them.
Many of the graduates have done great things. You probably know about Keri Anderson, who is the Pastry Chef at The Country Club in Brookline [MA]. She is one of “my kids,” as I refer to many of my students/graduates. Success comes from watching the growth of the graduate in industry, life and whatever their paths may lead to. Many choose other pathways, and either become very successful or struggle. Often they will come back to talk or seek advice. We as a faculty (two full-time and five part-time) collaborate to inspire the students and build foundations, not just in foodservice, but in life.
What advice do you give your students?
Opportunity is everywhere. Volunteer, take professional classes, join professional groups and get involved, try new experiences that take you out of your comfort zone, be creative. I will talk to students about the opportunities that volunteering has done. ACF has given me more of an education and opportunity to learn then I could ever pay for. How many chefs do you know that have piloted an aircraft carrier, or climbed on an F18? Volunteering sent me to Anguilla to work on a PBS series and work with Paul Bocuse and several shows with Rose Levy Beranbaum, Chris Fennimore, and many others.
Whatever life gives you, create your own path and build foundations for the future. Be strong in your beliefs and work hard to reach your goals. Practice and hard work will make you the person you strive to be.