Internship Gives a Baking & Pastry Arts Student Sweet Experience

Takita Griffith ’24 says she wants to learn more about the gourmet chocolates and delicate cakes and desserts created at her favorite chocolatier in her home country of Barbados. Her path to perfecting handcrafted treats that are sold to resorts, locals and tourists alike is taking her on quite a culinary arts journey.

When Griffith was 16 years old she left Barbados to live with her mother in Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from high school, she enlisted in the army and was stationed at Fort Drum where she worked as an Army Culinary Specialist (MOS 92G) providing meals for hundreds of soldiers. She was elbow deep in starches and meats, but her dream was to be elbow deep in cake batter.

“I don’t really know why I have always wanted to be a pastry chef. I like sweets and I’ve always wanted to be able to make them. I want to make specialty, gourmet cakes and desserts!”

After serving three years in the army, her love for baking led her to the JWU Miami Campus, but shortly before she was to pack up and move she learned of the campus consolidation and choose to attend the Charlotte Campus, where she was wowed by the baking & pastry arts courses taught by Scheille Andrews, associate instructor, and Harry Peemoeller, senior instructor. All the while, Griffith was working with Jodi Wood, academic & career excellence advisor, trying to arrange her internship.

Takita Griffith with Chef David

“Takita met with me weekly for months leading up to the internship and not all students really take advantage of the resources we have in the ACE Center,” Wood recently said. “Takita has the most positive attitude and wants to do well and Chef David is great at teaching so I thought they would work well together.”

Wood knew just where Griffith belonged; The Cypress of Charlotte, a premiere retirement-living community, where she makes desserts for the 450-plus members.

“You can’t make a mistake,” Executive Chef David Thomas says. “If you do make a mistake, you then hopefully learn from it. Takita will make one cake or pie or cheesecake, try it and then makes at least 10-20 more. She makes our desserts daily. We serve about 375 meals a day. I know she was overwhelmed when she got here, she has to produce!”

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And the pressure is on! Since the club’s pastry chef left, Griffith has been tasked with making even more mousse, meringue and marzipan. “Sometimes I wish I could do more. In class, after we ice our carrot cake, we make little decorative carrots out of icing and place one on each slice of cake.” Then, laughing, she says, “I can’t do that here! I make about 200 slices a day!”

JWU culinary students with Chef David at Cypress

There are three JWU student interns in all working at The Cypress, learning their way through the various salad, grill, sauté, dessert and prep stations. “The students are so nice and so respectful,” Chef Thomas says. “I know they are initially scared to death. It’s a big kitchen with a lot of moving parts. They come here to help us, be I am teaching them too. Without them, we would struggle. I appreciate their skill level, what JWU teaches them, before they come here.”

Getting there, to The Cypress, isn’t easy for Griffith. She doesn’t have a car and takes a ride-sharing service each day from her apartment near the university to her internship in South Charlotte, and then back home. But she is hoping all of her hard work and dedication will pave the way to another opportunity. “When I was in the army I had three or four people helping me on one station. I’m on my own here and this is definitely preparing me for the next job.”

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