Baking School Faculty at Star Career Academy
CASSIE TRIOLA - STAR CAREER ACADEMY BAKING FACULTY
Baking & Pastry Arts Instructor; Newark Campus
Chef Cassie was born and raised in Belleville, NJ. After graduating High School, she attended The French Culinary Institute in NYC. In 2005 she graduated with a Grand Diploma in Pastry Arts. Shortly after, she became the Assistant Pastry Chef at the Huntley Taverne in Summit, NJ. Gaining experience in a busy fine dining restaurant, she took those skills and added banquet experience when she became the Assistant Pastry Chef for the Hamilton Park Hotel and Conference Center. It was here that Cassie learned both plated dessert recipes, as well as a variety of cakes, cookies, pastries and other banquet desserts.
However, when Cassie’s creative mind yearned for more, she wanted to create and execute her own dessert menus. She accomplished this when she became the Pastry Chef for Napa Valley Grille in Paramus, NJ. It was here where Cassie not only developed and paired seasonal desserts and flavors, but also became a front of the house presence; Interacting with her guests and taking their feedback into consideration when updating her ever changing menu.
Today, Chef Cassie hopes to take her experiences and share them with her students. Her simple philosophy is to have her students master the techniques, expose and expand their culinary palette, and replicate a professional, but fun kitchen environment.
GINAMARIE LEPERA - STAR CAREER ACADEMY BAKING FACULTY
Baking & Pastry Arts Instructor; Long Island Campus
Chef Ginamarie Lepera was brought in a large family, where as a child, she would help her mother cooking the Sunday dinners. She was always interested in what her mother was doing and eventually begin cooking/baking on her own. As a teenager, her family owned a pizzeria / restaurant and Chef Gina would spend all her free time helping out. That’s when she found her passion; baking and creating desserts.
After graduating high school she attended college and was an operating room nurse for several years. Chef Ginas passion kept calling her. While working in the OR, she decided it was time for formal training. This is when she signed up for the Baking and Pastry Arts class at The Culinary Academy of Long Island.
Shortly thereafter she started taking orders from fellow employees for cookies, cakes and candies. It got to the point one Easter where she had over 257 orders waiting to be delivered. That’s when she realized that she wanted to open up her own business.
She started in her business in 2001 and opened the doors to Ginamaries Bakery in October 2005. From there she has went on the win many cake and dessert competitions and has taken home 1st prize in all of them. She has also expanded her business into a wholesale company in which supplies many desserts to retail stores and restaurants around long island.
Word spread around the community about Ginamarie and her products. She was asked to teach private lessons and after school programs in her communities church and schools.
GINNY BRADFORD – STAR CAREER ACADEMY BAKING FACULTY
Chairperson; Manhattan Campus
As a child, Ginny spent countless hours on the kitchen counter watching and learning about cooking from her mother and grandmother. She began working in restaurants when she was 15 years old. Upon graduating from the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, she worked her way up to the level of District Manager in the retail industry, while always performing part-time work in restaurants. Eventually, Ginny gave in to her true passion, and left the retail industry to pursue a lifetime career in the culinary arts. She earned a living by dividing her time between General Managerial positions and various kitchen jobs, for gaining experience in the back of the house.
Ginny worked her way up from baker to prep cook to sous chef at Bonterra Wine and Dining in Charlotte, a restaurant that received numerous awards for their cuisine and extensive wine list. Wanting more experience in pastry arts, she applied to The Culinary Institute of America. Upon graduating, she worked for Biagio Settepani, one of the top ten pastry chefs in the country. She worked at Bruno Bakery and assisted him for two years, in preparation for the World Pastry Cup in Breckenridge, Colorado, where his team won 2nd place. She gained more experience from working at numerous fine-dining restaurants, including Le Petite Bistro, Home and Mina’s. Ginny eventually returned to North Carolina as the Executive Pastry Chef at The Inn at Ragged Gardens, a four-star bed and breakfast with a fine-dining restaurant that was open to the public. Eventually, she became kitchen manager and continued to drive business.
Ginny began her own wholesale dessert/confection company in 2004, which later grew to a full-service catering company that she still runs and operates today. Her experience in NYC includes many fine establishments such as Gramercy Tavern, Per Se, Rosa Mexicano and Atlantic Grill.
MARY T. SYDOR – STAR CAREER ACADEMY BAKING FACULTY
Baking and Pastry Arts; Long Island Campus
Since 2001, Chef Sydor has worked for both the National and World Pastry Championships. She also serves as both Judge and Head Judge to many competitions and bake-offs.
She is a board member of the New York Guild of Chefs. In 2007, she was the first woman on Long Island to receive the prestigious Chef of the Year Award; in 2006, the President’s Award, and in 2003, the Member of the Year Award.
Chef Sydor has been extensively involved in competitions. In the “Evening of Good Taste” competition, her teams have won a total of eight first-place gold medals! She has been seen numerous times on the Food Network and has been interviewed on the “Dr. Passes’ Show”.
Chef Sydor continues to share both her knowledge and enthusiasm in the Baking and Pastry Arts Program. Many of her former students have gone on to excel in the pastry arts, and Chef Syndor is always available to help her current and former students.
She graduated from CALI in 2000, and has furthered her studies with Ewald Notter and Andrew Shotts, as well as at the World Pastry Forum, which is taught by the world’s top pastry chefs. She earned her New York State Teacher’s Certification in 2003.
Chef Snydor believes passion, perseverance and a great education are key elements for success in the pastry and baking field.
KATHRYN S. MIRANDA – STAR CAREER ACADEMY BAKING FACULTY
Baking & Pastry Arts Instructor; Long Island Campus
Chef Miranda has worked in some of the best fine-dining establishments on Long Island, as well as in country clubs and hotels. She has been the Executive Pastry Chef of the Muttontown Country Club under Long Island culinary great Blake Verity and has worked with famed Chef Robert Ellinger.
Chef Miranda comes to Star Career Academy as restaurant opening Executive Pastry Chef for Blackstone Steakhouse in Melville, where her original dessert menu received high accolades from The New York Times, Great Restaurants of Long Island and Zagat’s Review.
Chef Miranda has won awards representing the Garden City Hotel from the Societe Culinaire Philanthropique and for her ‘Blackstone Cake’ at an “Evening of Good Taste”. She has had a spot on “Taste This TV” and has participated in the “Women Chefs of Long Island” benefit.
In 2007, Chef Miranda was appointed Baking and Pastry Chairperson, and has already taken this new professional department to the next level. She has involved her students with numerous charity events, expanded The Star internship site list, and used her industry contacts to spread the word on the program bringing many specialized chefs in for demonstrations and guest instructor spots.
She graduated the French Culinary Institute, 1997, top in class; Hofstra University, double major History and Education, 1997; Coalition of Career Schools; New York State teachers certification 2007.
Chef Miranda’s philosophy is simple: “Not many people are lucky enough to say they love what they do for a living, but chefs can. Enjoy this incredible career. But more importantly, life is short, so eat dessert first!”
LEONARD MESSINA – STAR CAREER ACADEMY BAKING FACULTY
Certified Executive Pastry Chef, Baking and Pastry Arts; Long Island Campus
Chef Messina is a Certified Executive Pastry Chef, with over 20 years of experience with Corporate Dining Services in Manhattan’s financial district. He was also Consulting Pastry Chef at the United Nations Plaza Hotel, and has consulted to the Nassau County Tech/BOCES. Star Career Academy has been lucky enough to have him on staff since 2000.
Chef Messina is a member of the Chefs de Cuisine Association of America, was on the Board of Directors of the American Culinary Federation, Long Island Chapter. He is currentlythe Director of The NY Guild of Baking and Pastry Arts
Chef Messina’s awards include Pastry Chef of the Year from the American Culinary Federation, Long Island Chapter, and Three Ribbons, representing the Four-Star Garden City Hotel at the Societe Culinaire Philanthropique Food Show in New York City.
Chef Messina’s knowledge and keen eye are in continuous demand. He has served as a Pastry Judge at the “Evening of Good Taste” competition for the past 17 years as well as at The Atlantic City Bakery Expo for the past 3 years. He has been featured in Newsday on two separate occasions.
In 2008, Chef Messina was again honored by his peers when he was named “Chef Educator of the Year” by the ACF.
In 2011 and 2012, Chef Messina was nominated for ACCSC’s Instructor of the Year, an international award.
He graduated New York City Technical College, Hotel and Restaurant Management, AOS, 1983; Culinary Institute of America, Continuing Education, 1995; Notter School of Pastry Arts & Chocolate Studio, 1999; regularly attends the annual World Pastry Forum; and the Coalition of Career Schools, New York State Teacher's Certification, 1998.
Lenny always gives back to the community, he is involved in numerous philanthropic organizations including the Magro Foundation for Cancer Research, the Donate to Destiny Foundation and several 9/11 charities.
Chef Messina truly enjoys passing his knowledge and skills along with his “passion” for pastry, and feels ongoing education is the key, and an asset to anyone seeking a career in the culinary field.
Many of Chef Messina’s students have gone onto great success and fame. Most notable Chris Coleman who won Food Network’s Chopped and of course Corina Elgart , finalist on Season 1, of TLC’s Next Great Cake Baker.
FRANK URSO – STAR CAREER ACADEMY BAKING FACULTY
Executive Pastry Chef; Philadelphia
Frank Urso sold his first wedding cake when he was 13 years old. This cake was the first time Urso had attempted this recipe, and it ignited his lifelong passion for desserts.
A Long Island native, Urso cultivated his pastry skills with the help of his mother and grandmother. His grandmother was an expert baker who introduced him to various kitchen tools and cookbooks, always with a strong emphasis on dessert. In no time, Urso was working in local bakeries, planning meetings for his high school gourmet club, and running his own freelance business – ‘All Occasion Cakes by Frank.’
While a student at Johnson & Wales University, Urso spent his summers working in South Carolina at The Mill, a brewery, bakery and restaurant in Charleston. It was there that he gained knowledge of bread making. While at The Mill, he also helped manage the bakery’s sustainable practices, which offered him the chance to utilize the unused grains from the beer by incorporating them into his breads.
Taking his love for bread making back to New York, Urso began working in research and development at baking company Abel & Schaffer in 1995, focusing on a variety of specialty breads. With this extensive knowledge under his belt, Urso accepted a position as Pastry Chef at The New York Palace Hotel in 1997. The kitchen of Le Cirque 2000 was attached to the hotel’s pastry kitchen, and it was there that he met and began collaborating with Jaques Torres on various VIP projects. Urso also had the opportunity to work at the Peninsula Hotel, where he continued to garner respect for his exemplary work in the kitchen.
Urso and his wife made the decision to move to her hometown of Philadelphia in 2002. He started working at The Rittenhouse Hotel, creating desserts for a number of banquets and weddings, and in 2003, two of his wedding cakes were featured in Philadelphia Weddings. The Rittenhouse Hotel houses the famed restaurant Lacroix, and Urso was able to collaborate with renowned chef Jean-Marie Lacroix, creating the majority of Lacroix’s breakfast pastries, as well as the dessert cart for lunch and brunch.
In 2004, Urso teamed up with acclaimed restaurateur Stephen Starr and Executive Chef James Locascio, to open the sophisticated steakhouse Barclay Prime. In his first position as Executive Pastry Chef, Urso created a menu that reflected his admiration for fun and playful desserts. Banana Cream, Caramel Apple Cheesecake and Toasted Peanut Butter S’mores, all pay homage to the primary recipes that Urso learned and perfected as a teenager. He has begun to pass the recipes on to his daughter, who (at four years old) is an avid baker who hopes to follow in her father’s footsteps.
With the opening of Parco, Urso is eager to return to his bread making days, creating an array of freshly baked breads, in addition to other delectable pastries for those eager to enjoy classic Parisian desserts.
NATALIE REYES- STAR CAREER ACADEMY BAKING FACULTY
Baking and Pastry Arts; Newark Campus
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