Raven McNulty was 8 years old when she decided she wanted to bake cakes.
And not the Easy-Bake Oven kind, either.
I knew I wanted to be a pastry chef, said McNulty, now 19 and a student at The Chefs Academy in Morrisville. Id watch Duff Goldmans show Ace of Cakes and Id think, Wow, that is really cool.
Last year as an Apex High School senior, McNulty took first place in the academys Top Teen Talent Scholarship Competition, which covers the full cost of tuition.
First, I entered my banana pudding cupcake to the Facebook voting portion of the competition, McNulty recalled. After getting enough votes, I moved on to the next stretch of competition, a road trip to Indianapolis. It was a few weeks before graduation, and I made a chocolate mousse tart with a garnish that looked like North Carolina. It was one of the best experiences of my life.
It was also good enough to win the top prize. Now McNulty is working toward an associates degree in applied sciences for baking and pastry arts at The Chefs Academy.
The school is sponsoring the contest again this year and is accepting applications through April 8.
The Chefs Academy opened in Morrisville in August 2011 and is part of the culinary division of Harrison College, a private school which offers 40 degree programs in culinary and pastry arts. The school is headquartered in Indianapolis.
McNulty credits Apex High School with readying her for the national culinary competition.
I owe a lot of thanks to my culinary teacher, Erica Hoskins from Apex High School, she said. Without her pushing me to do culinary team and competing, I wouldnt have been as confident going into competitions at The Chefs Academy.
Area high schools do an admirable job of preparing students for careers. Apex High, for example, has an accredited auto shop program, a culinary program and an academy of information technology.
During the competition in Indianapolis, McNulty worked with acclaimed pastry chef Ben Hardy. The experience gave her vision for her future.
Ive been inspired by a lot of chefs that I have worked with, she said. Their words of encouragement make me feel like I have talent and I belong in the industry. Now its my time to show them what Im made of.
In addition to taking classes at the academy, McNulty just completed her first wedding cake for a friend and plans to enter a cake in the Wake Tech Culinary Arts Showcase this year.
Her advice to aspiring chefs for this years competition?
Shoot for the stars, she said. If you have any interest in the food industry or culinary field, you have nothing to lose by competing. Everyone should get out there, experience new things and have fun with it.