Neisha's sweet tooth

Sunday, October 07, 2018

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By day, Neisha Harper is a supervisor at Esty Davis Caterers and a part-time waitress at special events.

When she's off work, however, she studies to become a pâtissière, or pastry chef, at Boys' Town Vocational Training Centre and has a hand in food entrepreneurship, baking and selling a variety of pastries, desserts and other baked goods.

Harper, 29, holds commis chef certification in commercial food preparation from HEART Trust/NTA, having pursued the level I and II courses at the training centre at Phillippo Baptist Church in Spanish Town.

The programme at Boys' Town will lead to a diploma and is equivalent to level III.

Harper told the Jamaica Observer that she realised she was good at baking while she was a student at Maggotty High School in St Elizabeth.

“Back in high school, I always baked and I always wanted to own a pastry shop,” she said.

To that end, she started G&N In$pired Creationz a year ago, working from home and taking orders via phone primarily for weddings, birthdays and other special events. Among the sweet treats on her menu are some traditional favourites plus twists on some staples such as rum and raisin cheese-cake, nutty bread pudding, and chocolate drizzled rum cake.

“It's something I love,” she says of baking. “I enjoy doing it and it's my passion. It's all about making people happy and I think this business helps me to do that.

“Baking adds value to my life and for me to be successful is my biggest dream right now,” Harper told Career & Education.

For now, that success is defined by opening four brick-and-mortar stores, one of which she anticipates having in her home parish.

“I hope to open a store outlet very soon and my long-term goal is to have at least four outlets,” said Harper.

She doesn't yet have a timeline for the realisation, but she is is convinced that she can attain her goal with continuous hard work and advertisement.

In addition to producing pies, candies, chocolates, cookies, cakes, ice cream, custards and bread, pastry chefs also order ingredients, keep inventory, deal with wholesalers, develop new recipes, provide input on menu-planning, enforce food safety standards, and sometimes hire staff. Especially in large settings, like hotels and restaurants, they work with a team of bakers and cooks, in consultation with a restaurant's head chef.

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