Nicolette Eyherabide ’08, Tartine Bakery
A little serendipity goes a long way. Nicolette Eyherabide was originally planning to take a “safer” career path and become a lawyer, but fate intervened. Nurturing a passion for food that she wanted to explore—”If I didn’t try it, I’d wonder about it my whole life”—she decided to throw her hat into both rings.
“I applied to law school and to culinary school at the same time,” she explains. “I got my acceptance to the CIA first, so off I went to St. Helena.” A native of Bakersfield, CA, Nicolette enrolled in the college’s Baking and Pastry Arts Certificate Program, offered at the CIA at Greystone in the Napa Valley. “When I arrived at Greystone, it was my first experience in Northern California,” she recalls. “I loved the small town feel, the amazing restaurants. Everybody was warm and welcoming.”
That welcome feeling extended to the kitchens and classrooms. “I appreciated the individual attention I received,” she says. “The chefs would come over and check everything, and explain things in a way that I would understand and remember. The best part of my CIA experience was working with amazing chefs every day. I was exposed to a multitude of techniques and styles from a diverse group of extremely talented teachers.”
An attentive and enthusiastic student, Nicolette is starting to put that experience to work as pastry cook at Fleur de Lys, the restaurant in THEhotel at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, NV. “The most important thing I learned at the CIA was how to work quickly and efficiently with others and alone, and to work well under pressure,” Nicolette says. “I felt 100% confident entering the professional food industry.”
That confidence has already paid dividends. “During my first week on the job, I was asked to create a soufflé while we were doing a little experiment with our ramekins,” she recalls. “I had flashbacks from the soufflé day we had during our plated desserts session at the CIA, and remembered everything I could about how to make that soufflé rise evenly and look beautiful. I nervously kept myself occupied during the 15 minutes of the baking process.” The result? “I was relieved and proud to open the oven to reveal a nicely risen soufflé that my co-workers really admired.”
Nicolette next brought her skill set to Chicago as a baker/decorated for Swirlz Cupcakes and later to Trump International Hotel & Tower as a pastry cook. Her ultimately goal was to make it back to sunny California. That dream came true in 2013 when Nicolette moved to San Francisco to work for fellow CIA alums Elisabeth Prueitt ’93 and Chad Robertson ’93 at the renowned Tartine Bakery.
The more she puts her skills and knowledge to the test in the industry, the more Nicolette appreciates her education. “Working for someone else has made me realize how well we were formally trained and taught,” she says. “I would not have been as confident and capable in a professional kitchen if it weren’t for all of my amazing CIA instructors.”
She hopes to one day apply that confidence to owning her own café or bakery. “But I never want it to be less about the food and more about paying the bills, so we’ll see,” says Nicolette, once again trusting that fate—and her CIA education—will lead her in the right direction.