Bakery science major unique to K-State, focuses on food quality assurance

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There’s only one place to go in the United States if you’re looking for a degree in bakery science and management: K-State.

According to Brenda Heptig, administrative specialist in the grain science and industry department, K-State offers the only four-year degree in the program available in the country.

There are currently 73 undergraduates in the program and, with a 100 percent post-graduation job placement rating, students from around the country come to Manhattan to pursue the degree. Companies that hire program graduates include: Pepperidge Farms, General Mills, Nestle, Horizon Milling and BEMA.

Some people have expressed confusion about the difference between bakery science and culinary schools. In the bakery science program, you have a science-based degree
focusing on the ingredient chemistry and functionality in baked products. The focus is on learning how to make a quality product
that is identical every time, while maintaining cost efficiency. On the other hand, culinary schools focus more on presentation than production.

Baking science one and two are important classes in this major. Both of
these junior-level classes include a lab where students work in groups to
make consistent products with little variation. This helps teach the chemistry of the product they are working on, as well as how small changes can affect the final product. The students also get the opportunity to eat the products after they make it. Sarah Moore, senior in bakery
science production management, said these classes are two of her favorites. 

“There is always food in the lab,” Moore said. “The
reason we eat what we make is to actually check the quality of the product.”
 

Moore added that some of the products they sample aren’t great tasting, but all the students try them anyways. This helps them get a clear view of
exactly what a specific ingredient variation does to the product.  

For example, a loaf of bread with too much sugar doesn’t look much different than a loaf with
the correct ratio, but, once a student tastes it, they get a better grasp of what
happened and why that would not be acceptable to sell to a customer.  

“The food is great, but more importantly, it’s what you learn
from taste testing the food that is really important,” Moore said.

The classes that bakery science majors have to take in the sequence are very
flexible. This program
works with students’ personalities and personal interests within the program.
There are two options in this major: production management or cereal
chemistry. The production management
option has more classes to prepare students for jobs in sales, product
development or production management, whereas in the cereal chemistry track students learn more about quality control and research and development.

Dave Krishock, instructor of grain science and industry, has been teaching at K-State for eight years, and has seen many students
through the program. He said he enjoys seeing
the students come in as shy freshmen and watching them grow, as well as seeing the jobs they work toward and their accomplishments. However, when speaking to prospective
students, Krishock is straight and to the point, asking each student two questions.

“The first question I ask is do you watch the food network,” Krishock said. “If they say yes, I tell them this is not
the same”

Krishock then asks if the student wants to live in Kansas during their career, because few jobs in the industry are available in the state. Most students have to move to a more populous area for jobs and internships, which are mandatory for graduation, in the program. About 90 percent of program graduates end up working out of state, so, according to Krishock, it’s important that students understand this from the very beginning.

Some possible careers for students with a degree in
bakery science and management include: product development specialist,
technical sales representative, production manager, quality assurance,
ingredient/equipment salesperson, labeling and regulatory technician and
retail/wholesale ownership.

By providing hands-on experience, K-State’s bakery science and management program strives to help students develop skills that will make them marketable in the baking industry.

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