Graduating from Pacific Grove High School in 2010, Alyssa Van De Vort earned a scholarship from the California Restaurant Association Educational Foundation to attend the New England Culinary Institute. And in 2012 Alyssa graduated from the institute with an Associates of Science in Occupational Studies for Baking and Pastry Arts. After stints working at Thomas Keller's acclaimed Bouchon in Beverly HIlls and at Terranea in Palos Verdes, the ProStart alum founded her own baking company, With Love Bakery, where she is the CEO and Executive Pastry Chef.
WHo has been your biggest culinary influence?
Thomas Keller. His food is pure, true and amazing. His kitchens are families that work together to produce great food, along with running restaurants that are so clean and so organized. Working in his restaurant group taught me so much.
Is thomas keller also your celebrity culinary idol?
Actually, my idol is Gale Gland. I had the chance to work with her at Pebble Beach Food & Wine for two years. She's great. Her desserts are always beautiful and delicious. She's down to earth and so very kind. I hope to work with her again.
What is your signature dish?
I've been lucky to work in all aspects of pastry: as a cake decorator, a bread baker, and working the pastry line, which has given me a lot of specialties. However, people are always raving about my cakes and my buttercream.
What is your favorite restaurant in California?
Such a hard question! There are so many restaurants I want to dine at but haven't had the chance yet. But for now I would have to say the best meal and dining experience would have to be Bouchon in Beverly Hills or Ink in Los Angeles. Both meals were incredible and inspiring.
what advice would you give your high school self?
To be patient; knowledge and experience come with time.
What advice would you give to high school students interested in the hospitality and culinary industry?
Set goals that you think are too high because even the hardest things in life can be achieved. Why strive for anything less than you deserve? The industry is filled with dreamers and passionate people - let them influence you.
What made your ProStart experience unique?
I would have to say my teacher: Mrs. Schueneman. She really took notice of how serious I was about becoming a pastry chef. She invited chefs in to talk to me all the time after school and gave me information on all the top culinary schools. She would arrange for me to work in some of the best kitchens in the Monterey area with some of the best chefs. She definitely put in extra work and effort on my behalf. I will always be thankful for her and the ProStart program.
How did prostart give you an extra boost entering the hospitality industry?
ProStart definitely made me feel well-prepared when I got into culinary school. I felt more at ease and that I could hold my own during my first set of classes. It was nice to have some background knowledge and experience.
How has the craef scholarship benefited you?
The scholarship I received from CRAEF was beyond helpful. It allowed me to get a great education at a great school without having too many student loans to pay back. It took some stress off both me and my mom. I am so grateful to have been awarded it.
Alright, one final question: what would your last meal be?
The tamales my family makes!