Posted on: November 5, 2021 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Photo by Marcus Collins

Chef Jeanne Kraus, left, grades a student’s chocolate showpiece.

By Rosie Finnegan, JRN 111 Student

As you enter the kitchen in Moraine’s M Building, the scent of chocolate is unmistakable, and you feel like you’ve stepped onto the set of a baking show, complete with all the drama.

Pastry student Mechaune Turner carefully moves an intricate sculpture made of chocolate across the room and slides it onto a stainless steel table. A giant chocolate flower topples down from the top, threatening to ruin all the work she has put in over the past two weeks.

But pastry chef and professor Jeanne Kraus calmly steps in, along with some of her other students, to help make repairs. They all hold their breath as they “glue” the sculpture back together with melted chocolate. One student fans the air to help the glue dry. And the chocolate showpiece is saved…mostly.

Kraus moves on to grade the finished showpieces, in between shedding a few tears over how proud she is of these young chefs. Scenes like this help cement the rapport students have with Kraus, who is in her first semester as Moraine’s full-time pastry professor after teaching part time here for a few years.

The care she shows for her students is evident from how she speaks about them, and in turn, how they speak about her.

“I just really get a relationship with [the students],” Kraus says, “and many of them, because our program isn’t that big, they’re in my classes many times over. So, over the course of their program, we really get to know them and care about them.”

Photo by Marcus Collins
Chef Jeanne Kraus looks on as her student, Mechaune Turner, makes repairs to a chocolate showpiece.

Turner shared an anecdote about Kraus letting her come in on an off day in order to continue working on the project, which was helpful with her tight schedule as an overnight post office worker. Turner says she comes straight to class in the morning after working 10-12 hours all night.

“Chef Jeanne has been very accommodating,” Turner said. “She understands that I come straight from work here. She asks me every morning, ‘Are you OK?'”

Alejandra Dominguez also appreciates Kraus’ teaching style.

“Chef Jeanne really takes it slow to show us how it’s done and shows us how to change things,” Dominguez said. “Overall, she’s a great teacher.” She said she plans to take more classes from Kraus.

Kraus did not start off as a pastry chef. As a child, she loved baking, despite others in her family not being inclined to the culinary arts. After finishing high school, she worked to obtain a forestry degree due to a love of camping and hiking she had developed as a Girl Scout. A move to Switzerland is what rekindled Kraus’ love of pastries.

“I always liked baking as a kid, and then when I lived in Switzerland I was just enthralled with all of the baked goods,” Kraus said. “That was kind of my main reason to go to culinary school, was to learn how to bake bread. When I lived there I ate a different chocolate and a different bread every day.”

Kraus was 30 years old when she went back to school for pastry. The people in her life encouraged her to pursue this new path, as her love of pastry bled into other aspects of her life.

“I taught Jazzercise, and I used to always bring low-fat desserts to my class, so it was really the next step to pursue culinary school,” Kraus said.

Photo by Marcus Collins

Although chocolate was intimidating at first, it became one of her favorite mediums to work with, alongside breads. Teaching about chocolate is exciting to her, as she loves watching students gain skills and be able to produce impressive art with the medium in such little time.

Kraus typically spends her days teaching from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., which is only a single class. Afterwards, she takes on other responsibilities that came with her new full-time position, such as answering emails and ordering supplies for her classes.

“Now that I’m in charge and kind of doing things my way, I’m trying to develop the program so that it’s not something completely new every class as they progress, but start off with something simple in baking one, and then we might do the same thing but a little more complicated in two, and in three we get crazy,” Kraus said.

Ryen Nagle, dean of science, business and computer technology, described Kraus’ creativity with pastry.

“When she does something, she always takes a different angle at it,” he said as he stood observing the chocolate showpieces. “I remember one time I was in [the kitchen] and she was doing a pineapple upside down cake. I can’t remember it exactly but it was unlike any other pineapple upside down cake I’ve ever seen.”

Kraus’ claim to fame is being featured in Chocolatier Magazine, where one of her desserts was on the cover. It was a goal of hers when she got out of school, and the publicist that worked at a restaurant she worked at got her the opportunity. Now, she is more concerned with sending her students out into the world with a good set of skills.

 “I’ve had a long life and a lot of experiences so far, but I love what I do,” Kraus said. “I absolutely love baking and teaching, and I love teaching baking.”

Photo by Marcus Collins
Students in Chef Jeanne Kraus’ pastry class prepare chocolate confections.