A Columbia Area Career Center student won a bronze medal for commercial baking at the 2019 national SkillsUSA Championships in June.
Rachel Riegel was one of over 6,500 participants from across the country who traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, to compete in the championship. SkillsUSA allows students to demonstrate technical skills in fields such as robotics, automotive technology, criminal justice and public speaking, according to a SkillsUSA news release.
“Rachel participated in various practices and social events for our local SkillsUSA chapter throughout the year,” Kaitlyn Frink, chef instructor at the career center, said. “This was her first year participating in commercial baking.”
Riegel, who is also a rising senior at Rock Bridge High School, won the Missouri State Skills Championship in the commercial baking category in April and then participated in the national competition in June as a Missouri representative.
“Rachel is extremely well-organized and did a great job of thinking through the contest and prioritizing her various tasks,” Frink said.
Karen Kitzel, associate director of SkillsUSA, said there are up to 100 contestants in the baking section: 50 in high school and 50 in college.
“When they began announcing commercial baking, everything around me went quiet, and then they announced my name as third, and I felt so happy and grateful that I had done well enough to place in the top three,” Riegel said. “Then, everyone was hugging me and congratulating me, and it all felt so surreal.”
Commercial baking is a skill contest in which competitors must meet production and quality standards expected by the baking industry. Contestants demonstrate their knowledge and skills through scaling, mixing, preparing and baking products, such as breads, rolls, cookies, pastries and pies. The students also have to demonstrate cake-decorating skills, according to the SkillsUSA website.
“Even though getting third can be slightly disappointing, I know that I did my best, and it certainly makes me excited for the future,” she said.
Riegel said she began baking when she was in middle school, although she has enjoyed helping around the kitchen ever since she was little. She said her parents were probably the first people to taste her baking. Because they both worked in the food industry, baking always came naturally, and it was a way to express creativity.
“Once I really got into it, I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else for a career. Baking has remained a constant in my life, and I am extremely grateful for that,” she said.
Her plan going forward is to earn a bachelor’s degree in food business management and baking and pastry arts from the Culinary Institute of America in New York, and her end goal is to ultimately own a cupcake bakery in a large city, she said.
Supervising editor is Libby Standford.