Life and Religion
|Fahrenheit pastry chef competes for title of North Carolina’s best|
|Success a sweet experience for Anika Rucker|
|Published Friday, August 3, 2018 1:09 am|
Anika Rucker creates art with food.
Fahrenheit’s pastry chef is competing for North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association Pastry Chef of the Year on Aug. 27 at Aria at Founders Hall, 100 N. Tryon Street. The competition is 5:30-9 p.m.; tickets are $125; attendees must be at least 21 years old.
NCRLA’s Chef Showdown features 21 competitors for chef of the year and pastry chef of the year, and six mixologists in the Mixologist of the Year competition. Rucker is one of six pastry chefs competing —three of whom hail from the Queen City.
“I’m not 100 percent sure what I’m going to do,” Rucker said. “All I’ll say is summer flavors and a classic desert item. I like to take the classical deserts and do a spin to it. I don’t want to give it away too much, but it should be really fun.”
Rucker went from cake decorating at Publix supermarket to Fahrenheit when her friend Thomas Richberg asked if she wanted a job there.
“A friend of mine was working here three years ago, and he said, ‘hey I’m leaving’—he was moving away—‘do you want a job?’” Rucker said. “I came here for an interview, and they hired me. I love the bustle of the restaurant, and the creativity that we’re allowed to have here.”
Rucker decided that Fahrenheit was the place to embrace her creativity.
“When I started here I was just a pastry cook,” Rucker said. “I wasn’t in charge of the pastry department like I am now. I was slowly given the ability to start doing specials. That’s where I was able to get my creative side. My first special here, I believe it was the hot chocolate entremets. It was really fun. I had chocolate muse, marshmallows—I made marshmallows from scratch for the first time—it had chocolate rum cake in it, ganache on it. I wanted it to look like hot chocolate, but a desert. I had whipped cream and marshmallow fluff on top, and then I had a twill cookie that looks like the little wafer cookies you put in hot chocolate sometimes.”
Rucker’s pastry passion grew from a love of sticky buns, which began during a family reunion in Elmira, New York as a child.
“There was a bed and breakfast, and the one thing that sticks with me to this day, and it’s my favorite thing to make, is sticky buns,” said the Syracuse, New York native. “These were the best sticky buns I’ve ever had in my life. I was like, ‘how do they make this?’”
She preferred making cupcakes and cookies, developing a reputation in high school for her creations.
“I used to take cupcakes and cookies to school all the time,” Rucker said. “I was in marching band, and all the kids would love the chocolate chip cookies. They were all, ‘are those Anika’s cookies? Are there any cookies?’”
While Rucker’s family encouraged her to pursue a business major after high school, she chose to attend Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte.
“I went and toured the Johnson & Wales facility, and they did a demo,” Rucker said. “I was like, ‘whoa, this is way bigger than I would have ever imagined. This is something I can do for a living. It’s like being an artist, but with food, and I can make a living out of it. That’s like the perfect world.’”
Now Rucker makes a living doing what she loves.
“Usually they tell you in school that you’re not going to find a job that you really enjoy, but I love baking and pastry,” Rucker said. “I love ice cream. I love cake. I love bread. I love all the carbs and cream I can get my hands onto. That’s what really drove me to pastry, but it all started at that bed and breakfast and the sticky buns—still [my] favorite thing is sticky buns with some pecans on it, and sometimes if you put a little cream cheese drizzle on top, it’s perfect.”
Reading and cosplay fill the time Rucker doesn’t spend in the kitchen. Her grandmother, Katharine Nellons, made her Blossom costume from “The Powerpuff Girls,” and is currently crafting costumes for a New York Comic Con trip Oct. 4-7. Rucker and a group of friends have chosen Candy Land and gender-bent Disney villains; she’ll portray Scar from “The Lion King.”
“I am a giant nerd,” Rucker said. “‘Game of Thrones’ is one of my favorite shows, but me and my friends actually cosplay. We read and watch a lot of anime. I watch a lot of television, and read a lot of books. Stephen King is one of my favorite authors right now.”
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