Today we’re launching our new Putting CTE to Work series where we’ll highlight the impacts of our Career and Technical Education (CTE) scholarship program. What many used to think of as purely vocational training has evolved into a dynamic career field with options as varied as the students who enroll in them. From health sciences to finance, the culinary industry to manufacturing, CTE professionals are on the cutting edge of today’s most hands-on careers and making an immediate impact on our nation’s work force. Here we’ll share the stories of Marine Scholars who are taking advantage of these unique opportunities.
Today, we’re profiling Brighid Lee-Egan, a trained pastry chef and Scholarship Foundation alumna. Brighid is the daughter of Captain James Egan, who was a combat helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War and later worked as an EMS pilot after his discharge from the Marines. Shortly before Brighid’s first birthday he was killed when his helicopter went down during a transport mission. Brighid grew up with memories of her father provided through stories and photos of a life spent in service to his country.
When it came time to pursue her own career, like her father, Brighid sought out a challenge. She applied to a rigorous program at the Culinary Institute of America – “the Marine Corps of culinary schools” as she calls it! Thanks to her dynamic and skill-focused education, Brighid hit the ground running after her graduation in 2013. She’s working her way up the competitive culinary industry with her sights set on owning her own business someday.
We asked Brighid to tell us about her CTE journey and what our investment in her education meant to her.
What drove you to pursue a career as a chef?
I knew I wasn’t someone who could spend all day working behind a desk. I had to be doing something and I had always loved baking with my grandma and for my friends when I was younger. It wasn’t until my sophomore year in high school, however, that I knew I wanted to pursue it as a career. Corny as it sounds, one day in foods class we were watching a Wilton Cake decorating video and it kind of dawned on me; I remember running home after school and telling my mom I knew what I wanted to do in life, I wanted to become a pastry chef.
Was your experience at the Culinary Institute of America different than that of your peers? How so?
Once in school the difference was pretty drastic. Unlike my peers who could wear sweatpants to class I had to be in either my chef’s uniform or business casual at all times. I also spent the first two years at college predominantly in kitchen classes. Moving forward I did have more liberal arts and management classes but they were all somehow still geared towards food. The learning there was super concentrated.
What did the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation’s investment in your education mean to you?
Your generous support was a tremendous help in covering my tuition at the Culinary Institute of America, it helped ease the financial burden and allowed me to pursue my education at the top culinary school in the United States. I know my father would have been proud to know I received an award from the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation.
Is there a chef in particular that gives you inspiration?
Chef Kristin Egan. I only worked with her for a summer season, but she taught me more in that short time than any other I had known. Not only did she teach me a lot of the technical stuff, and tips and tricks not taught anywhere but real life experience, but she taught me more of who I aspire to be as a chef and as a boss, and how a chef and assistant should work together – less hierarchy and ego and more team work and compassion.
What is your favorite thing to cook or bake?
This is always the toughest question to answer! Recently, more modern takes on classic desserts. I like either taking a classical preparation of a dessert and presenting it with new flavors or taking those classical flavors and presenting them in a totally new way. I like to take a few different unique flavor combinations and make them into different textures that all come together in the end to execute an intriguing dessert.
What do you enjoy most about your job today?
I get to learn about a whole other aspect of my industry. I love to learn new things and expand my knowledge and I get to do just that EVERY DAY!
What are your goals for the future?
Learn as much as I can. I love this industry and I still dream of one day owning my own tea shop and bakery or cafe, but I know I need to put in a lot more work before I get to that point.
Thank you so much, Brighid! We can’t wait to see where your journey takes you. To learn more about the benefits of a Career and Technical Education and our scholarship program visit www.mcsf.org/cte.