HOW SWEET IT IS IN THE LAS VEGAS VALLEY
VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE POSTED “LAS VEGAS REVIEW JOURNAL”
By Chet Yarbrough
Las Vegas confectionary jobs, where do they come from; how are they created; where can I get one? What skills are required? As with all businesses, you need production, sales, and management.
Education and experience are the engines of the Las Vegas’ sweet treats business. Whether attending world renowned Le Cordon Bleu Schools of culinary arts, fighting for a work station at the College of Southern Nevada for an Associates Degree in Pastry Arts, or working for a local confectionary business, Las Vegas has everything a sweets business entrepreneur or aspiring employee needs to succeed.
You can start at Le Cordon Bleu. Meet the Cordon Bleu staff and Chef Kathy, the head of the pastry arts department. They will help you with everything from financial aid, acquiring a Patisserie and Baking Certificate, to getting that first job. Classes are taught by professional chefs and business managers. If this is your starting point for employment in the sweet treats business, call (702) 851-5322 and make an appointment to visit the campus at 1451 Center Cross Road.
One of the renowned on-the-job experiences of a Le Cordon Bleu education is working in an on-campus fine dining restaurant, noted in following website caption.
“Le Cordon Bleu campuses feature on-campus, open-to-the-public restaurants named Technique. Each Technique restaurant is run by our students, who prepare and serve the meals.’
‘For patrons, our restaurants offer opportunities to enjoy delicious and elegant dining experiences. For students, Technique provides the capstone course of your program at Le Cordon Bleu. This extraordinary learning opportunity provides a fully functioning industry venue where you can practice skills learned in other classes, as you work in all front- and back-of-the-house positions of a restaurant. You’ll spend time at every kitchen station, serve in the dining room, and be exposed to the finer points of restaurant marketing and management. While providing timely and efficient service to actual customers, you’ll experience an authentic taste of your future as you learn the way to a culinary career.”
If Le Cordon Bleu does not meet your need, the beginning of your journey may be the College of Southern Nevada, attending classes for a Pastry Arts Associates Degree. If you can get into the class, the course takes 2 semesters to complete, often taught by pastry chefs and culinary personnel that work on the strip or nearby, in the Las Vegas valley. Tuition for the Pastry Arts Associates Degree is $7,500.
CSN, like Le Cordon Bleu, offers a student staffed campus restaurant called Russell’s.
Chef Tom Rosenberger invited me for lunch at Russell’s and gave me a tour of the CSN facilities. Russell’s is a training restaurant operated by CSN professors for and with the students that are working for culinary accreditation.
Lunch is delicious and inexpensive at Russell’s; a great place to dine, with the ambiance of a good restaurant anywhere in the Las Vegas valley. There were 25 people waiting in the lobby before lunch doors opened at noon. Joseph Quagliano (Joe), a former food and beverage manager from the strip and now a Professor/Director at CSN, pleasantly greets everyone in the lobby with a presentation of today’s desserts.
Joe is a good example of Chef Tom’s explanation of CSN’s employee selection process in the College’s Department of Hospitality Management. His first criterion is 5 years of professional experience. The prospective CSN employee must have a college degree, a bachelor’s or higher, but 5 years work experience in the hospitality industry is pre-requisite.
That philosophy carries through to selection of students for the Pastry Arts Associates degree. Because there are more applicants than available work stations, preferential selection is given to applicants that have some work experience in the hospitality industry and plan to return to the hospitality industry when they graduate.
The constant interchange between the College of Southern Nevada and the big names of Las Vegas, like Wynn, MGM, and Caesars have created a two way street for jobs. When Chef Tom Rosenberger needs a special class taught for CSN’s pastry arts program, he calls a master pastry art’s chef on the strip; that master chef fits a weekly class into his regular work schedule that he or she will teach at the college. Steve Wynn offers scholarships to aspiring students based on their performance in school; an “A” student can receive full reimbursement for tuition with a sliding scale of reimbursement based on college performance. As the Borat comedian says—“What a county”.
Maybe your beginning in the sweet treats business is working in one of the many confectionary businesses in Las Vegas; stores like LICK at Mandalay Place or Ethel M on the strip, the Chocolate Factory at the Orleans Hotel and Casino, or Popcornopolis at the Excalibur, Krispy Kreme Donuts in 5 valley locations, or the Sugar Factory at one of its 3 locations (the Mirage, Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile Shops, or the Paris Sugar Factory Brasserie). All of these companies are big names in Las Vegas and, in some cases, the world.
There are many employers in the world of sweet treats.
Las Vegas may have a 13.7 percent unemployment rate but there are jobs being created by sweet businesses like the Sugar Factory on the spectacular strip, Westward Dough, a Las Vegas based Franchising Company, and Retro Bakery in sedate suburbia at 7785 N. Durango Drive, just off 95N, in Centennial Hills.
According to Sugar Factory Partner, Corey Jenkins, all skills are needed at the Sugar Factory; no resume is turned down without a review and interview. In 3 years, 3 partners have grown a business from an on-line confectionary sales business with one 500 square foot shop to 3 stores covering 20,000 square feet of commercial space (including a 650 seat restaurant) with a host of store front sweet treats. Growth was their plan from the beginning. With a patented and manufactured Couture Pop candy confection, Sugar Factory has made a media splash with celebrity licks from popular
sweets lovers like Kim Kardashian. Sugar Factory has been touted on reality TV shows, magazines (like Us, InStyle and People), newspapers (from Las Vegas to New York), and even Fox News and MSNBC. The splash is a tidal wave of creative marketing by the Sugar Factory partners.
Having a party, wedding, business meeting? Need a cake or party favor bag? Party favor bags with t-shirts, and a variety of confectionary pleasures are offered by the Sugar Factory sales staff. Have a picture of a cake that you want for a special celebration? The Sugar Factory has Chef Michael Gillete to make your picture of a cake into lip smacking reality; in a great venue, the Las Vegas’ sweet street of dreams.
Visit the SugarFactory.com website. It covers job openings, product, publicity, and online purchasing; a one stop media event. You can submit your resume on their website, choose from a picture menu of decadent delicious treats and clever gifts, read about their latest Las Vegas’ happening, or make an online purchase.
Sugar Factory’s website is an introduction but the real deal is a trip to the Mirage, the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, or the Paris Sugar Factory restaurant. Who knows, you might meet a star; or, at least lick the same sweet treat as Kim Kardashian.
Lincoln Spoor started Westward Dough in 1996. He opened the first Krispy Kreme franchise at Rainbow & Spring Mountain on March 19, 1998. The store at that location and time broke all franchise records for sales by a single Krispy Kreme store. He grew the franchise to 5 stores with 2 on the strip and 1 down town. He did not stop there. Lincoln Spoor added Popcornopolis and Auntie Anne’s pretzels to Las Vegas valley’s sweet treats business and sandwich stores that we know as Capriotti’s. Employment at any of these sweets businesses is generated through job fairs, newspaper advertisement, referral, and walk-in requests and applications.
Sugar Factory and Westward Dough are big stories of sweet success in Las Vegas; their big stories are the same story on a smaller scale at Retro Bakery, 20 minutes from the strip.
Meet Kari and Brian, a dynamic duo that started Retro Bakery 3 years ago and just renewed their lease for another 3 years. Kari, and her youngest daughter, Lucy (5 y.o.) entertain you with their enthusiastic YouTube presentations about cupcakes, cookies, and wedding cakes. It is a lot of work, beginning at 4:30 a.m. and, sometimes, ending at midnight, but what a thrill it must be to offer home made cupcakes and other celebratory sweets in the Las Vegas valley.
Cupcakes and cookies are every day, “walk through the door”, treats that are displayed in the front case of the store. Cakes are custom made for any occasion, wedding, bachelor/bachelorette parties, business events, or holiday celebrations. You can choose from a book of pictured cakes or bring in a design from any source you can think of and voila, your wish becomes Retro Bakery’s command.
Though not an exclusive family affair, Kari, Brian, two daughters, and a part time deliverer (Kari’s mother Susan) are committed participants in this sweet endeavor. Chris Vega (aka Snazzy) walked through the Bakery door via a Cordon Bleu internship to become Retro Bakery’s butter cream cake baker extraordinaire. Kim Chew, through a social chat site connection, became the cake decorator, and the latest hire, Jessica is learning Kari’s cupcake secrets to give the dynamic duo an occasional break from a 24/7 self employment commitment.
As with every business start-up, fear of failure lurks at the corners, but Kari and Brian used 10 years of Red Robin restaurant experience to prepare themselves to become sweet business bakers. It started with Kari’s infectious and energetic social network promotion of a cupcake and cookie store front. Brian continued to manage a Red Robin restaurant during Retro Bakery’s start-up season but joined Kari when the business began to grow. In the beginning, store front traffic paid the bills but as the business became known through Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube, special orders for weddings, businesses, and special events began clinking the cash register keys.
Kari and Brian are not on easy street but, in a difficult economy, they have grown a winning team of employees.
The Sugar Factory, Westward Dough, and Retro Bakery exemplify the spirit of Las Vegas. How risky is it to start or expand a business in the middle of a recession? How much drive and ambition did it take to start a business like The Sugar Factory or Retro Bakery, or expand a business like Krispy Kreme and Popcornopolis in the middle of tough economic times? The three Sugar Factory partners, franchise business man Lincoln Spoor, and Retro Bakery’s owners can tell you because they did it. How hard is it to take on education debt before you have a steady job? Ask “Snazzy” at Retro Bakery. There is no reward without risk.
Employment is created from many sources, by former New York bank investment entrepreneurs like Lincoln Spoor, by Las Vegas business investors and partners like Corey Jenkins, and by (relative) newcomers from Oregon/California like Kari and Bryan Haskell. Their entrepreneurial spirits are re-creating Las Vegas’ job opportunities in sweet treat production, sales, and management.
You can order; they can deliver; a Le Cordon Bleu or a CSN education; a job at the Sugar Factory, Krispy Kreme, Popcornopolis, Auntie Ann’s pretzels, or Retro Bakery; a sweet treat from one of the many confectionary businesses in the Las Vegas valley. You can find the featured businesses in this article on the net at chefs.edu (Le Cordon Bleu), csn.edu (College of Southern Nevada), SugarFactory.com, westwarddough.com and RetroBakeryLV.com.
Las Vegas is the place for sweet business success.