Hello from the Sweet Chef!
March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction Williamsburg, ARAMARK at William & Mary
Best Presentation 2010
Most Outstanding Dessert 2011
Most Outstanding Dessert 2012
Culinary Institute of Virginia Graduation 2016
Virginia Beach Sandler Center
Dessert menu created by Chef Dominique
Pictured: Strawberry Triple Sec Cheesecake Bars with Mascarpone Cream and Strawberry Dust
Wow! My very own spot to have my few minutes of fame! Well let's see...My name is Dominique Lewis and I am a graduate of Johnson & Wales University. I attended the Rhode Island campus and successfully retained a Bachelor of Science degree in Baking and Pastry Arts.
The number one question that I get is what made me go to a culinary school? I grew up around nothing but good cooking. My Dad is from Louisiana, so I was used to having some pretty good southern food. My Mom is from the Philippines, and anyone who knows someone from the Philippines, knows that you practically get greeted with food as you walk through the door! Dinner was always on the table as the family gathered around and talked about the events that happened during the day. Another attribute to my love of food came from my Dad's military background. I have lived in California, Maryland, Japan, Florida, Washington, and Virginia. I have also traveled through most of the states and have visited Hawaii and Hong Kong. My early influence to art was due to my brother and I doing crafts and drawing as children. One of my favorite books to read growing up, was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I could literally smell the chocolate from the waterfall everytime I read the book. I was also interested in fashion design, cosmetology, and sweets (of course!) growing up. I took a Food Occupations course in high school and always ended up doing a majority of the cakes. We would have a few in-class competitions and I always ended up on top. During my senior year, I took the second part of the course, which required me to have a job. That was my first step in the food service industry. Towards the end of the year, I received the Chancellor's Scholarship awarded by Johnson & Wales University for my academic achievements as well as a thorough essay that we had to write. That definitely helped with the choice of narrowing down schools!
At Johnson & Wales I took introductory courses, as well as advanced pastry courses, and worked a few food service jobs in school to gain experience and earn a little extra money. My first externship was at the Williamsburg Inn in Williamsburg, Virginia. I occasionally got to work alongside one of the greatest chefs in the area, Chef Hans Schadler!
My next externship was at the Celtic Manor Resort in Wales. It was a beautiful place to work at and it was even nicer that I had a room in the hotel for 2 1/2 months! I learned how to set up pastry buffets, plate desserts for high tea, put together room service items, and dabble into fine dining desserts. One of the most memorable items that I made was Christmas pudding. We had to make 12 batches and had to mix it in a cement mixer! It was pretty gooey and messy, but that made it even more fun!
I worked at Kingsmill Resort and Spa in Williamburg for a short time before I left for Wales. Chef Uwe Schulzas asked me to come back and work for him when I graduated school, as a pastry cook, and I accepted. I owe a lot of my industry experience to Chef Uwe.
After that, I ended up working for ARAMARK at the College of William & Mary. I had only been 24 years old for one month, before accepting the responsibility of Executive Pastry Chef. By the time I had reached 6 1/2 years of working there, I had won numerous awards with the catering team, had developed a 4-week menu cycle for the students as well as a special diets menu, established a hiring relationship with the Culinary Institute of Virginia, and then some! But with responsibility comes more hours, it's hard on the body and I was missing some family time.
So here's where the backup plan came in... I started doing cakes for family and friends, but the more cakes I did, the more I realized that my dream could really become a reality--especially since we were able to buy our first home in 2011! With the encouragment of my family, I started looking into a home bakery business. I HAVE to share with you the story of our house. My husband and I looked at a TON of houses. The house that we ended up with wasn't my ideal square footage and age, but it was pretty much move-in ready. The seller's name on the paperwork looked so familiar, I had to inquire. Good thing I did! I found out it was my teacher's house! She had taught the Food Occupations course in high school. I was able to meet with her and she shared everything about the house with my family. She even gave me a cake stand that she had used in the class that I was in. What a sentimental gift! She was so proud that I pursued my dream of becoming a chef. Anyways, sorry for the "Kodak" moment but I definitely thought the story was worth sharing...
After working at William & Mary, I wanted to do something different and opened Patrick Henry Mall's first cupcake stand! I learned so much...hiring, taxes, laws, customer needs, etc. After I had my second daughter, I decided to go back to work work lol. I was a Baking & Pastry Arts instructor at the Culinary Institute of Virginia for 4 1/2 years, then I had an opportunity to devote my time solely to my business and my family.
All of the events in my life thus far have led to the birth of Sweet Chef and I would like to share every bit of my success with you!