A UW-Stout online student from Wisconsin who lives in Indianapolis has taken second place in a pastry contest halfway around the world.
Laura Lachowecki was runner-up Jan. 22-23 in the Sigep Pastry Queen competition held over two days in Rimini, Italy. The biennial contest featured female champions from 12 countries. The winner was from France and the third-place finisher from Mexico.
“It was an absolutely amazing experience,” said Lachowecki, who grew up in northeastern Wisconsin, in New London, and graduated from Fox Valley Lutheran High School in Appleton.
She earned two associate degrees from Fox Valley Technical College, culinary arts and hospitality management, before enrolling at UW-Stout via a transfer agreement between the schools. Lachowecki is pursuing bachelor degrees online at UW-Stout in management and in hotel, restaurant and tourism management. She expects to finish the management degree in December.
Lachowecki’s success in Italy wasn’t a surprise. She was the American Culinary Federation’s national pastry chef of the year in 2015, and she works part time as a pastry chef at a country club in Indianapolis. Also, she qualified for the Italy competition with an outstanding performance about a year earlier at a New York event.
For the Italy competition, she practiced for six months with a coach. Competitors had to create four desserts with an astrology theme and a 4- to 6-foot-long showpiece of blown items made from sugar. They were required to make a contemporary single-serving tart, a coffee ice cream dessert in a glass, a single-serving chocolate dessert on a plate and a mini-pastry finger ring.
They competed nine hours the first day and seven hours the second day to prepare and present their entries.
“We trained hard. I went there with the goal to win. I was a little disappointed but definitely very happy with second place. I wanted to place. The run was flawless that day,” she said, adding that contestants knew in advance what they would be required to make and had practiced making their individual choices.
“I’ve been told that I work well under pressure in high stress situations,” she said. “Having TV cameras in your face and judges staring at you — you have to get in the zone, keep your head down and ignore the distractions.”
Lachowecki, billed at the contest as the “U.S. Pastry Queen,” won $3,000 euros, equal to about $3,750 in U.S. dollars.
In addition to her job as a pastry chef, she’s teaching pastry classes at the Art Institute of Indianapolis, which has a hospitality program. She plans to continue to enter high-level pastry competitions. After graduating from UW-Stout, she’s unsure if she’ll pursue a master’s degree and focus more on teaching or being a chef.
Either way, she plans to continue to work professionally. “I’d definitely like to move into a management role,” she said.
Lachowecki is enjoying her online classes at UW-Stout. “It’s been great with the flexibility, and the teachers have definitely have been accommodating when I was doing the competition. That was a blessing,” she said.
UW-Stout Online is a leader in UW System online program offerings, with 15 undergraduate and 16 graduate programs.
Laura Lachowecki works on her entry in the Sigep Pastry Queen competition in Italy.
A coffee-flavored ice cream dessert was one of Laura Lachowecki’s creations for the Sigep Pastry Queen competition in Italy.