Video: Erin Denny – Food as Art


Alexander Herz

Following her passion for the art of cooking, senior Erin Denny will be attending the culinary school at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, next year.

“I’ve always loved to cook and bake. A few years back I started to seriously bake and make cakes and cupcakes for weddings,” Denny said. “I realized this is something I actually want to pursue as a career and not just as a hobby.”

Denny said she dreams of opening a restaurant one day. In college, she wants  to major in the Culinary Arts and Food Management Services. A food management degree is essentially a business degree in the culinary arts.

Paula Vantrease, Redwood’s College and Career Specialist, helped Denny find Johnson and Wales. Denny applied only to this school.
“It was the only college that really fit me,” Denny said. “For me it’s such a relief to know what I want to do and what I am passionate about at such a young age.”

According to Denny, the application process was relatively simple. However, Johnson and Wales wants the applicant to show genuine interest. Denny visited the campus twice and wrote a personal letter expressing her interest.

Last summer, Denny attended a Career Explorations camp at the school and took cooking classes for a few days.
“It is an introduction to the college life,” Denny said. “You stay in the dorms, you go to a few classes, a few lectures, and you meet students. It is really a great experience.”

Denny’s family inspired her interest in cooking. Her father taught her to appreciate good food by taking her to restaurants, and her aunt inspired her to bake and encouraged her by sending cookbooks.

“I love to cook, I love to follow recipes, I love to make up my own recipes, and I love to cook for my family,” Denny said.

As a vegetarian, Denny has developed an interest in creating healthy foods that taste good.

“I work a lot with quinoa and kale,” Denny said. “I like to play around with adding all sorts of spices and flavors to figure out what tastes best, what goes well together, what complements each other.”

Along with starting her own small business making cakes and cupcakes for weddings, Denny experiments with different recipes in her kitchen, such as chai tea cupcakes or new flavors of macarons.

“[A french macaron is] definitely one of the most difficult things to make,” said Denny. “The eggs have to be room temperature, and you have to whisk for a certain amount of time. If you under-whisk, you have a runny batter, but if you over whisk you have stiff batter. It is definitely one of the most satisfying and rewarding when it comes out right.”

Denny taught herself most of her cooking skills through cookbooks and websites. She worked at Modern Cookie in Larkspur before it closed and gained an understanding on how a bakery works. The owners taught her much of what she knows about baking and running a business.

“It was a really good insight to see what it was like – to see the business of having a bakery, keeping up with that business, seeing the recipes, and how all the food was cooked,” Denny said.

Denny said she loving cooking because it is an unique art form – one that can be appreciated in multiple ways.
“That’s my favorite part about baking and cooking. It’s an art that you get to eat and enjoy,” Denny said. “With painting and all sorts of physical arts you just get to look at it. With cooking and baking you get to see it, you get to make it pretty, but you also get to eat and devour it in the end.”