Jay Roth ’13

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Jay Roth ’13

Jay Roth ’13

Degree: AOS
Major: Baking and Pastry Arts
Hometown: Archbold, OH

Singing the Praises of Baking & Pastry

Standing in the kitchen watching his grandmother bake cinnamon rolls and chocolate layer cake was the spark that lit a passion for career changer Jay Roth. “I always remember watching her ice the cake,” says Jay. “My grandma loved pleasing and entertaining people through her food. She was a terrific example of how cooking and baking can have a positive influence on others.”

As he grew up, however, his love for baking took a back seat to another passion: singing. “I graduated with a degree in music and vocal performance in 1988 from a small liberal arts school in Goshen, Indiana,” says Jay. “While on vacation with my family at Walt Disney World I saw a vocal group called Voices of Liberty. I knew right then that was what I wanted to do.”

Voices of Liberty, an eight-part a cappella group, performs Americana, folk, and patriotic songs in the rotunda of the American Adventure Pavilion in the Epcot theme park. “I got a regular job working on the boat ride at Epcot at the Land Pavilion in 1989. After auditioning for a few years, I won a spot as a member of Voices of Liberty and I did that full time from 1994 through 1999.”

Despite a successful singing career, Jay never lost his knack for baked goods. “I always brought all of my creations to work. As with singing, I like the immediate gratification of positive feedback. With my baking I love it when people say, ‘Oh this is great. Can I have the recipe?’ If not, I think about how I can make it better.”

In 1999, entertainment cutbacks at Disney cost Jay his job. “I looked at it as an opportunity to try my hat at different professions, one being a baker’s apprentice,” Jay says. “I grew up attending a church camp called Little Eden in Onekama, Michigan situated along Portage Lake. I knew of a little bakery/deli in town so I approached the baker about an apprenticeship. I did that for three months, creating mostly bagels and breads, but I wanted to learn more.”

While he was researching baking programs, The Culinary Institute of America kept coming up. “Simply put, everyone I talked to in regards to culinary school said the CIA was the place to go. I wanted to get the best professional education possible and have prime opportunities to excel in the culinary world.”

To get a taste of that world, Jay signed up for a weeklong Career Discovery course in baking and pastry arts at the CIA’s California campus. “I wanted an idea of what I was getting myself into. By the end of the week I was sure; baking was my future.” But, as it turned out, not his immediate future. “I was accepted into the baking and pastry certificate program but changed my mind at the last minute. I wasn’t ready, and I missed singing.”

He returned to Disney and performed in variety shows and once again with Voices of Liberty, but the CIA was never far from his mind. “I met Steve Swofford, advancement officer for alumni relations, at a CIA open house when I was doing my initial research,” says Jay. “We’ve remained friends and kept in touch over the years and he was really influential in my decision to apply for the AOS in baking and pastry. I didn’t want to end up living in Florida for the rest of my life. With singing you’re kind of limited to where you can live. That’s why I wanted to pursue my other passion, so I bit the bullet and made the change this past year.”

“I guess you could call it a mid-life crisis,” continues Jay. “It’s quite daunting to leave an established profession that you love…but I’m not getting any younger and I would hate myself if I didn’t go for it. I didn’t want to think ‘what if’ throughout my life. It was a big change for me to go out on a limb, but I’m happy with my decision.”

Like many older students, he had trepidations about returning to the classroom after so many years and assimilating with his peers. “It’s very important to me to do well academically. The sheer quantity of reading was surprising but I’m happy to say I’m doing well in class. It helps to sit front and center so there are no distractions and I can concentrate on the instructor.” In a way it’s like learning a new language, he says. “Getting accustomed to the lingo of the culinary field and the appropriate way to respond in class was a real adjustment. It’s a whole new world to me.”

Jay has been able to continue his love of singing by performing the national anthem at the recent Bocuse d’or USA National Competition and at campus sporting events.

He feels there are similarities in both of his passions. “I loved singing as a profession. Some days were better than others but when you’re in harmony and everyone is singing in key and working together it just pops and the sound is wonderful. I think that applies to the kitchen as well, when everyone is working together producing a product for people to enjoy.”

The curriculum and special events are benefits that Jay relates to as an adult student. “I’m really appreciative of all the opportunities made available to me on campus. Not only is the CIA a prestigious school to attend but it’s possible for students to meet and learn from top chefs throughout the world,” says Jay. “I think a CIA degree gives you the opportunity to live anywhere, making connections and networking within the industry.”

Jay has a very clear plan for his future. “I’d eventually like to own my own bakery with a business partner, preferably somewhere out west. I’ve already trademarked the name, Blue Jay Bakery, and bought the domain rights for the website. Jaybird is a family nickname so it’s a play on the word. A friend has even designed a logo.”

Coming to the CIA is a dream fulfilled. “It’s like when I first started working at Disney,” says Jay. “I used to walk through the park thinking I can’t believe I’m working here. Now, as I walk through campus, I can’t believe I’m here studying at The Culinary Institute of America.”

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