Lori Davidson just finished her fifth year at Wellesley College as the pastry chef at Claflin Bakery. Of all the forms of dining in the foodservice industry, Davidson said that her interests lay in educational dining, which is the work of providing food to students in educational institutions. Baking has always been a passion of hers, and she has been satisfying students’ sweet tooths ever since she joined the Wellesley community.
Davidson’s interest in baking began when she was young. She explained that her grandmother used to bake wedding cakes, and Davidson still has pictures of the masterpieces her grandmother made. Davidson also took a cooking class in the eighth grade, which had her so “enamored with cooking” that she instantly knew she wanted to work in the foodservice industry. When she was older, she attended Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., graduating with a Bachelors of Science in Baking and Pastry Arts.
Before she began her career in educational dining, Davidson worked in hotels, restaurants, wholesale and retail bakeries. But, while she was beginning a family, she decided to search for a job closer to home. She was introduced to Wellesley’s Pastry Chef position by Bates’ Chef Manager Kevin Kesterson, whom she had previously worked with in Boston in 2000. She was eager to take a new opportunity.
Davidson explained that working in educational dining allows her to achieve a better work-life balance for her family.
“Having a family and being in the foodservice industry can be extremely difficult,” said Davidson. “I had already worked for 13 years in places where you were guaranteed to work holidays, weekends and with few days off. Educational dining was a welcome change to that type of schedule. I wanted to be more available to my son and not miss out on the important days and achievements of his growing up.”
Here at Wellesley, Davidson’s days usually start at 5 a.m.
“In the mornings, I am responsible for the union employee call-out line,” said Davidson.
To run the kitchen seamlessly, it is her responsibility to replace employees who are sick and help her staff decorate pastries, while also keeping up with paperwork. Davidson added that her “afternoons are usually for ordering and menu ideas.” Through research and home baking, she challenges herself to produce new desserts and create new twists on old favorites.
Educational dining, Davidson stated, brings her challenges that are “typically self-imposed.” She enjoys challenging herself to come up with new types of desserts and bread recipes. Mixing comfort items with trendy ones, she plays around with savory ingredients to see how they pair with sweetness and tries to keep things new, fresh and seasonal.
“Pastry is a science… If you put too much baking soda or eggs or even sugar, you will not get the intended outcome. It is an exacting science that calls for precise measurements,” Davidson said.
Educational dining demands hard work and comes with constant pressure to produce good outcomes. Despite the challenges, Davidson loves working within the college community.
“I think the community, especially since President Johnson came, is wonderful. In the end, we are all here for the students. Whether you are cleaning common areas, fixing pipes, or cooking, the final result revolves around these [students],” she said.
Davidson participates in most, if not all, special dining hall events, including the Chili Cook-off and Cupcake Wars, which “allows for fun, different items for the students and [her] staff.” Since she does not work in a dining hall, Davidson and her staff do not get to see the students on a daily basis, but she agrees with other staff members that “it is great to see the students rally around each other in everything from a food event, to a sports game, to an injustice.”
Davidson’s favorite part about working at Wellesley is the feedback she receives from students.
“Sometimes I get approached during events, or even when I am eating lunch, by students that want to tell me about their dessert favorites. I love that! The best is when a student will ask for a particular item that is not on the current menu, that they loved and want to see again. It makes everything we do worthwhile,” she said.