As we continue our series of highlighting our instructors, students, and alumni by telling their stories of successes, aspirations, and inspiration, we sat down with Olivia Martin, a 2020 graduate from The Culinary School of Fort Worth.
CSFTW: How did you get started in the culinary field and who were some of your inspirations in the kitchen?
Olivia: Culinary has kind of always been a part of who I am. I have been cooking and have been in the kitchen since I was about 12. From there, I just kind of always watched cooking channels and watched cooking shows before Food Network was even a thing. I watched Emril Lagasse and How To Boil Water and all of that stuff because I was always into it. I’ve been studying cooking my whole life and would practice by cooking for my family. I’ve always enjoyed taking care of people and seeing them smile after giving them something they really enjoy. I love that food creates memories for people.
I always knew that cooking was going to eventually be something that I did. I wanted to raise my kids first. I have one in college and one who is 10-years-old, so I definitely have more freedom now.
My grandmother was a big inspiration for me. She would always take me into her garden when I was a kid and show me the plants. We would always pick food for our dinners. When we would go in and cook the dinner, she would let me watch and participate as much as I could. My parents also always wanted me to be involved with cooking. I was often responsible for meals. I just always knew that food was going to be a part of me.
When you decided to pursue cooking professionally, what made you decide on The Culinary School of Fort Worth?
Honestly, what made me decide on CSFTW was, number one, the length of the program. Number two, I really liked that I got to learn both savory and pastry. I wasn’t as interested in pastry at first, but I’ve always been the kind of person who wanted to just see what I could learn and hopefully learn as much as possible. I watched some of the online testimonial videos that the school put out, and I really enjoyed what the students and alumni had to say about the program. Then, when I went to visit the school, I was really impressed by the good environment and the people that I met.
What have you been working on since graduation?
I’ve been kind of doing a little bit of everything. You know, obviously, COVID kind of threw everybody for a loop, but at first I had continued working with my externship place which was a coffeehouse here in my neighborhood. I was doing all of the baking for them which was a lot of fun, but it also really helped me become a lot more confident. That definitely wasn’t my strong suit when I started school, so that experience really helped to round me out.
Then, during COVID, I ended up having to stop doing that because a bunch of people had gotten sick there and I had a pregnant mom in my house at that time, so I had to figure out what I was going to do. I started just throwing things out there and letting people know that I could make cupcakes, breads, and other baked goods. I started messing around with that, and for Thanksgiving, I sold rolls. I think I ended up selling 12-15 dozen rolls. For Christmas, there were a lot of people that needed cookies, so I sold those.
As that became popular, I started to do more catering. I did cakes and then charcuterie, and all of a sudden, the charcuterie really took off which made me really busy with that for parties and events. People would ask for birthday dinners and that kind of stuff. Then, a lady in my neighborhood who is the VP of Marketing for Indo-European Food’s, found out what I was doing. She reached out to ask if I could help her with a charcuterie project. They wanted to do a board for one of their marketing posts that had a charcuterie style but was vegan. I worked with her on the products that they wanted me to use, put together all of the recipes, did the photoshoot, edited all of the photos, and basically did everything for it. Now that turned into me writing monthly recipes for the company on their Amazon store which I love.
You’re obviously kind of working in a lot of different fields and a lot of different projects right now. Is that your ultimate career goal or are you hoping to find some kind of focus?
I kind of think that eventually I’ll find a focus, but for right now, since I still have a kid at home, I’m just doing whatever comes my way. I really like it because I’m not getting bored with anything. I’m staying very busy. It’s crazy because I have not done any advertising and it’s all been purely word-of-mouth which makes me feel great. I’m really lucky to live in a great neighborhood that has Facebook pages that are constantly passing names around for work.
I do love doing the catering jobs, and I’m starting to think about doing YouTube instructional videos to see if I like that at all. The main reason I’m thinking about doing that is because I’m one of those creative people that likes to try a little bit of everything. So I’m still searching for what my “thing” is, but I’ve found that I love doing the marketing stuff. The recipes, the photography, the editing – all of that stuff I’ve found sparks something in me that I didn’t know was there. I love following the rabbit hole.
It sounds like you’ve had a very positive experience since leaving the school which makes us happy. What would you say to someone who is thinking about coming to The Culinary School of Fort Worth?
If you have a passion for cooking and it’s something that you feel is a part of you, I’d say to absolutely go for it. Don’t hold yourself back. Now with the way the world is and how people want private meals and catering, you can pretty much do anything that you want in the food industry. If food is your thing, go to The Culinary School of Fort Worth. The reason that I liked it so much there is that the relationships and the openness with the instructors and staff makes you feel so welcomed. No matter what your question about the industry is, they’re going to help you find the answer.