Kendall School of Culinary Arts alumna Luminita Cirstea (‘08), the co-grand-prize winner in last October’s “America’s Best Raisin Bread Contest” sponsored by the California Raisin Marketing Board in Fresno and hosted at the American Institute of Baking (AIB) in Manhattan, Kan., won a tour of California raisin country, wine regions and the San Francisco Bay area in late March.
Cirstea was one of 20 finalists competing in artisan and commercial categories. Her winning entry in the artisan category, Raisin Rye Bread, earned her a plaque and medal along with the trip to California with nine of her fellow winners. The tour included Yosemite National Park and visits to Napa Valley and the San Francisco Baking Institute. “I am so looking forward to this trip,” Cirstea says. “It will be very educational for me.”
Cirstea earned a Certificate in Professional Cookery from Kendall’s School of Culinary Arts in 2007, and a year later graduated with an AAS in Baking & Pastry. These days, if Cirstea isn’t traversing the country taking bread courses, she can often be found in Kendall’s baking kitchens preparing for her Certified Baker (CB) exam through the Retail Bakers of America under the tutelage of instructor Melina Kelson-Podolsky, CMB. In early March, Cirstea presented her winning raisin bread at the American Society of Baking’s BakingTech 2009 in Chicago.
“Winning the co-grand prize in the artisan-bread category was a wonderful surprise and definitely a pleasure, but it honestly never entered my mind that it would happen,” Cirstea says. “To share this prize with Chef Lionel Vatinet [LaFarm Bakery, Raleigh, N.C.] was beyond my wildest dreams … it was an honor! Mainly, I entered the competition for the experience of a wonderful weekend of baking bread and meeting other talented and knowledgeable bakers.
“My training at Kendall had everything to do with my success in the competition,” Cirstea continues. “The class in artisan bread I took from Chef Kelson during my student years was the foundation. She was there for me with advice and encouragement as I practiced for this competition.”
Applications to enter the 2009 America’s Best Raisin Bread Contest are available at www.LoveYourRaisins.com through August 15. The 2009 contest will be held at the AIB in Manhattan, Kan., in mid-October.