AARON MUDD firstname.lastname@example.org
Years ago, Sandy Combs was a seventh-grade dropout wanting more out of life.
Now, the 50-year-old cake decorator has been named culinary arts student of the year by the Kentucky Restaurant Association. She also recently placed fourth in the world in a Dairy Queen cake decorating competition in Puerto Rico.
The experience was a little unbelievable for Combs, who is from Franklin and attends Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College.
Combs credits the Simpson County Literacy Center for motivating her to get her GED diploma and pursue her dreams of a better life.
The Michigan native s experience in the culinary arts industry goes back 28 years.
She described moving to Tennessee in 1996 and working as a pastry chef for the Gaylord Opryland Hotel as great experience. There she prepared wedding cakes and desserts for banquets. However, she also helped out when needed by flipping omelettes and by preparing salads and chicken Parmesan.
I don t know, I guess it kind of found me, she said.
Combs continues to work through challenges and find success. Decorating cakes on live television with cameras right in your face was nerve-wracking for Combs, but she endured.
It was really stressful, I think, kind of not knowing what to expect, she said, adding that after a while everything else just blacks out. It s just you and that cake.
While in Puerto Rico, Combs soaked in some sun, enjoyed beautiful beaches, visited historical sites and learned about the territory s rain forest.
Cake decorating is a creative outlet and almost therapeutic for Combs, who is learning a lot through Southcentral Kentucky s Culinary Arts program. The program is challenging, she said, but prepares you to be a professional.
Michael Riggs, program coordinator of the Culinary Arts program at SKYCTC, has more than 30 years experience in the industry.
It s a lot more about management than it is the ability to just cook well, he said.
When it comes to her management skills, Riggs said Combs has become more comfortable and realized that she s more capable than she thought.
That ll help while Combs continues to chase her dreams.
My dream has always been to have my own bakery, she said. And that is still a dream of mine.
SKYCTC Culinary student Sandy Combs was recognized by the SKYCTC Board of Directors for her accomplishments. Pictured from left: Dr. Phillip Neal, President of SKYCTC, Sandy Combs, and SKYCTC Board Chair, Mary-Garnett Richey. Photo by SKYCTC