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October 17, 2019

On the menu: The perfect pairing of food and science for this student and her alumna mother through the Chef Apprenticeship and Pastry/Bakery programs.

Since she was a girl, Sofia Quintana Baez has known which degree and career she wanted, and where she planned to go to school.

She often came to campus with her mother, who attended JCCC starting in 2010, and was convinced the College was the right place for her. “When I was in elementary school, I liked that the people were friendly and there was always something going on,” she said. "As I got older, I liked the idea of smaller class sizes and that you could get to know your professors.”

As a student, she has found faculty and staff very helpful at adapting her education toward her career goals. Just like her mother’s coursework a decade before, Sofia’s is a mixture of the art and science of food.

Recipe for success

Sofia’s mom, Mayla Kritski, studied in JCCC’s Chef Apprenticeship and Pastry/Baking programs, earning an associate degree. She also worked for the Catering department and Café Tempo. But Mayla’s education wasn’t just on the culinary side. She also took many science classes because she wanted a career in food science. “My passion was for food science, but it was important I start in the kitchen,” she said. “I needed to understand the cooking processes and what and how people like to eat.”

After leaving JCCC, she got a bachelor’s degree in food science from Kansas State University. Her first job in that field was at US Foods in Chicago. Several positions later, she is the Senior Food Safety and Quality Technologist for Mars Food in Mississippi.

In her position, she is responsible for quality assurance for the company’s packaged foods — making sure that food safety standards are met, recipes are followed and the company delivers everything it promises consumers. “I definitely have used my culinary skills — not in a restaurant setting, but in mass production. That’s where a lot of the science comes in,” Mayla said.

Like mother, like daughter

Sofia is in her second year at the College, studying general sciences. She works at Café Tempo and for Catering, and plans to get a bachelor’s degree in food science from K-State. She also wants to go into quality assurance for a food company.

As part of Sofia’s participation in JCCC’s Honors program, she is working on an independent study project with Chef Aaron Prater, Hospitality Management Associate Professor. Her goal is to answer the question, “How does altitude and pressure affect the taste of airplane food?” She has contacted several companies that produce food for airplanes to learn from them, but many of her observations come from trips to visit her mom in Mississippi.

“While on the plane, I wondered how the taste of the food could be improved. That led to me thinking about how pressure and altitude could affect that. I’m curious about the science behind it, which led to my project,” Sofia said.

Sofia’s reason for going into food science sounds a lot like her mother’s a decade before: “It involves everything I like – working with food and delving into science.”

Turn your passion into a career

If you are interested in a career or degree that combines your passions, take Mayla and Sofia’s lead and work with Academic Counseling Services to shape your education experience. Counselors have tools that can help you: