Name: Cher Harris
Occupation: Corporate Pastry Chef, Hershey Entertainment & Resorts
After serving as Executive Pastry Chef at the Hotel Hershey for nearly 10 years, Cher Harris was recently promoted to the newly-created role of Corporate Pastry Chef for Hershey Entertainment & Resorts (HE&R), overseeing development and strategy of pastry operations across HE&R establishments including Hersheypark, Hershey Lodge, Hershey Country Club, and more.
An internationally-recognized pastry rockstar, Chef Harris has earned herself numerous accolades including winning the 2017 Global Chef Challenge Semi-Finals for the Americas, being named the ACF's 2016 Pastry Chef of the Year, and earning the title of "Pastry Queen" at the 2014 Ladies' World Pastry Championship in Rimini, Italy. Continue reading to get a glimpse into the life and career of this #PastryQueen!
1. What does a typical day at work look like for you?
There is no typical day! It varies based on types of business we have in our properties. Some days working on cake orders and weddings, some helping with banquet buffets and plate-ups. Often looking up trends, standardizing recipes and procedures or creating restaurant plated desserts. In between a lot of food ordering, staff scheduling and planning.
2. Why did you choose this career/industry?
I think because I have always been artistic and I love food, and maybe a little crazy too!...to enjoy the chaos that it can be at times. I find that I need to keep busy and I like working with my hands—this field certainly provides this.
3. What was your first job in the industry?
A family-owned restaurant, I was a prep cook that eventually became a line cook. The family worked with me and I learned so much as far as kitchen etiquette and basic cooking techniques. In the beginning of my career I was fortunate to often have supervisors and mentors that were always willing to share and help me grow.
4. Briefly describe your career path and how you got to where you are today.
I have always worked in restaurants since I could work. Pizza shops, restaurant line cook and waitress, candy shop production, country club pastry cook, conference center pastry chef. I always found the thrill of trying to get the next job that I didn't think I was quite ready for. Each time only challenged me more and made me work harder. After high school, I actually went to college for architecture...that degree left me feeling bored and back to working in restaurants. About 10 years later after all the jobs previously listed, I decided to go to school to try to get culinary degree. I worked all day and went to school at night. It took me a few years longer, but I received not only my culinary degree, but a hotel restaurant management degree. I continued to focus on pastry and still tried for the job that was bigger than I. It has landed me in a company I love, working with a great team. I have competed in pastry competitions and traveled all over the States as well as abroad many times. I am very thankful for the people that I have met along the way that have helped to guide me to this point.
5. What is your favorite part of your job?
It is pleasing people through my craft. We are able to provide smiles and give surprises from what we make. I also love that I get to work with pastry externs and students that have a desire to pursue the same career that I have.
6. What is the most challenging part of your job?
Balance. It is difficult on a daily basis with demands and tasks and also with personal life and knowing when to disconnect. There is always work to do, projects and menus to work on.
7. What advice would you give to students interested in pursuing a culinary career?
Truly understand what you are getting into.
8. What achievement are you most proud of?
Winning 2014 Pastry Queen, Ladies World Pasty Championship held in Italy, competing against 10 other countries.
9. What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
Be outdoors, kayaking, hiking or gardening. I also love to cook and relax with some great wine.
10. Favorite thing to make (or eat)?
I actually really love to cook. Love cooking for family and friends and trying new recipes and methods, whether a cookout or a dinner party. My favorite 'go to' weeknight dinner is probably chicken picatta.
PA ProStart Blog
The PA ProStart Blog is for Pennsylvania students and teachers of the ProStart Program- a nationwide, two-level high school career and technical education program that teaches culinary arts and restaurant fundamentals.