Former HRC Instructor Meets Challenges on ‘Chopped’

Blackmarket Bakery owner Rachel Klemek can work under pressure. She runs three bakeries, has four kids, and counts herself as a former Hotel, Restaurant & Culinary Arts faculty member of Cypress College. And now, she can call herself a “Chopped” episode champion and season finale runner-up.

We asked her a few questions about her experience. She offered an inside glimpse of the popular cooking competition show, as well as some sound advice that works in and out of the kitchen.

How did you get involved in being on the show “Chopped?”
Back in October of 2018, I received an email from a casting company requesting that I apply to “Chopped.” At that time, I hadn’t seen more than a few snippets from “Chopped” over the years but thought I should just give it a try anyway. My family strongly discouraged me, given how challenging it looked. Being an optimist, I filled out their app online and submitted a few videos of myself baking. A Skype interview and a more in-depth phone interview followed. Even then, I didn’t think I would get cast. Then, a producer called to schedule my “bio-pack,” where a crew filmed in the bakery location. But the producer warned that nothing was decided. Then, three weeks before the first episode filmed, they emailed to say that I was cast in a dessert episode and needed to get to NYC! I memorized and tested as many “fast” recipes as possible, not knowing what kinds of desserts I would be making.

At the start of the “Sweets Showdown: Cake” episode, you said your philosophy on the show was to “Keep Calm and Cake On.” Is this your motto for everyday life, too?

I think I came up with that on the spot, at the producer’s prompt to have a tagline. But in essence, I aspire to follow that advice. Freaking out about stuff is not productive, but sometimes it still happens!

You called one of the judges on the show, Sylvia Weinstock, a legend. Did that make you more nervous?
The whole process of filming was completely nerve-wracking, but I don’t know if any particular judge made it any more so. Sylvia Weinstock was a trailblazer in exquisite sugar flowers and incredible tiered cakes, so I was familiar with her stature in the industry but decided that being overly intimidated would be a handicap so tried to act as normal and confident as possible.

Squid-ink toffee — what inspired you? It was very popular!

Toffee is basically sugar, butter, water and a bit of salt. Since the salt is necessary to balance the sweetness, the saltiness of the squid ink seemed like it would work well. My mistake was adding the squid ink before the toffee was completely cooked, since I relied on the color to tell doneness. Luckily, I was able to guess when the toffee reached temperature (before burned and turned bitter) by the bubbles. Plus seafood and butter made sense to me!

You said the other contestants’ Bundt cakes were simpler. Do you think your more complex take helped you?
I think substituting the tomato soup as part of the liquid in the cake was the key to my surviving that round. Adding ganache and caramel, which seemed like a good idea for a dessert, was perceived by the judges as going overboard…

What did you win for being the best chef of that episode?
For winning the Chopped Cake episode, I won the chance to go back and compete in the Sweets Finale. And the ability to claim that I am a Chopped Champion. That’s it!

For the finale, the pressure seemed stronger. And did the ingredients seem weirder?
The ingredients were pretty weird in all six of my rounds (in both shows), but in every round there were at least two items that were easier to address. With Martha Stewart judging and that $50,000 on the line, the pressure was more intense in the finale.

It appeared as if the closer the show drew to the end, the more camaraderie there was among contestants. Did you feel that way?
Not particularly. In between rounds, there was a minimum of conversation between contestants. We were all coping with a very stressful situation together, but since we were still in it, I think we all kept pretty focused and to ourselves.

What was the most intimidating/challenging thing in that episode? What was the best?
Making a dessert to flambé was really tough for me. A new experience! I considered using the cotton candy machine but hadn’t done so before and didn’t want to count on it without any prior experience. The high point was making desserts for Martha Stewart and hearing positive feedback. One of my favorite cookbooks as a young baker was Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts, so I am a huge fan!

You got good feedback on your flavor. And your flambé looked so pretty! Judge Alex Guarnaschelli said you are “such an unbelievable baker.” Is that how you were able to walk away saying you were “feeling like a winner for sure”?

Going into the whole “Chopped” experience, I had no expectation of getting through even one round. So winning one episode and being the runner up in another constitutes a big accomplishment in my view. Being a business owner, I spend lots of time on office stuff like marketing, hiring, accounting, scheduling, etc and not much in the kitchen anymore. So I was proud to have gotten as far as I did!

Is there anything you learned from the experience that you might bring back to your students?

My take-away from filming two “Chopped” episodes is:
1. Practice, prepare, and be as ready as possible (for life, for baking, for anything)
2. Trust your instincts
3. Do work you are proud of
4. Remember to have fun and not take yourself too seriously

Walt Bowman speaking at graduation.

Cypress College Remembers Walt Bowman, Alumnus and Foundation Board Member

Cypress College is remembering long-time Foundation Board of Directors Member and Alumnus Walter Bowman, who passed away on Sunday (November 17, 2019). Mr. Bowman, a former mayor of Cypress, is being memorialized this evening.

Mr. Bowman’s association with Cypress College is long and strong. He enrolled at Cypress College following military service in the Army. In 2006, he was recognized as the Cypress College Foundation’s Alumnus of the Year. He served on the Foundation Board of Directors since 1993, was a past president, past chairman of the Americana Awards, past title sponsor of Americana, a Citizen of the Year from Cypress in 2002, and a member of the college’s Legacy Society.

“Walt made an impact on me as one of the most thoughtful, kind, and dedicated individuals we will know,” said Cypress College President JoAnna Schilling, Ph.D. “Cypress College and our community will miss him deeply and so will I.”

A service for Mr. Bowman will be held tonight (November 21, 2019) at Cypress’s Holy Cross Lutheran Church, where he had been a member of the choir.

Mr. Bowman moved to Orange County in 1978 from his family dairy farm in Michigan only to settle in Cypress, which was known as “Dairy City” in the early 1950s.

“I think many people feel the way I do — and they are proud of the community and I want to make sure it stays this way,” Mr. Bowman said in 2001, following his selection as the Americana Awards Citizen of the Year for Cypress. “That’s why I stay involved. I think Cypress has a good family atmosphere and it is a really nice place to live and raise children.”

Walter and his wife Ethel have served their community for many years, volunteering with groups their children were involved in, including Little League, boosters, and PTA.

In addition to his strong association with Cypress College, Mr. Bowman spent a number of years on the Cypress City Council (1989-98), including service as the town’s mayor (1991 and 1996). He was a long-time board member with the Cypress Chamber of Commerce, and was named the organization’s Man of the Year in 2000. He is a former director of the Boys & Girls Club of Cypress, former chairman of the Cypress Redevelopment Agency, the Permit Streamlining Committee of the Southern California Associations of Governments, and former chairman of the Orange County Housing Commission. He also served as president of the Stanton Chamber of Commerce, the Stanton Boys & Girls Club, and Kiwanis.

Since 1974, Mr. Bowman was the proprietor of a successful real estate business. He earned an associate degree in business administration from Cypress College, and a bachelor’s degree in finance from California State University, Long Beach. He also served in the U.S. Army for three years.

Walt and Ethel Bowman, pictured at the 2006 Americana Awards.

Cypress College Offers New Creative Writing Certificate

Cypress College’s Language Arts Division is offering a new certificate in creative writing. The certificate program is designed for students seeking a broad appreciation of literature and increased skills in communication. In particular, it provides students with the opportunity to pursue their interest in creative writing through intensive study and practice of the literary arts. Students will immerse themselves in a structured, focused, and multifaceted curriculum of the writer’s art by studying literature and honing their own writing skills to create original, polished works of poetry and prose. Students will read, write, and engage in dialogue about creative works in a supportive workshop environment. Students will also receive mentorship about opportunities for publication, performance, and recitation.

The certificate is awarded upon the completion of 18 units of coursework, including one core course and five electives. A list of classes for this certificate is provided below for your convenience.

For more information about the Creative Writing Certificate Program, please contact program coordinators Professor Bret Kaufman at and Professor Stephanie Tran at

Required Core (3 units)

  • ENGL 105 C Introduction to Creative Writing (3 units)

Electives (15 units)

  • ENGL 102 C Introduction to Literature (3 units)
  • ENGL 126 C Introduction to Screenwriting (3 units)
  • ENGL 127 C Introduction to Poetry Writing (3 units)
  • ENGL 128 C Introduction to Short Story Writing (3 units)
  • ENGL 130 C Introduction to Creative Nonfiction Writing (3 units)
  • ENGL 225 C Literary Journal Publication (3 units)

For the Spring 2020 semester, we will be offering 6 courses that meet the requirements for the certificate:

  • ENGL 105 C Introduction to Creative Writing (3 units)
  • ENGL 102 C Introduction to Literature (3 units)
  • ENGL 126 C Introduction to Screenwriting (3 units)
  • ENGL 127 C Introduction to Poetry Writing (3 units)
  • ENGL 128 C Introduction to Short Story Writing (3 units)
  • ENGL 130 C Introduction to Creative Nonfiction Writing (3 units)

Of these courses, the following three are brand new and being offered for the first time:

ENGL 127 C Introduction to Poetry Writing (3 units)

Students will write original poetry, study forms, techniques, and literary elements of poetry, including classical poetic forms and free-verse tradition. Student work will be critiqued in a workshop setting.

CRN: 23955 12:30-1:55P MW Payne, John HUM-203

ENGL 128 C Introduction to Short Story Writing (3 units)

In this course, students will write original short stories while studying the evolution of the form and its narratological techniques and literary elements, including the form’s place in a variety of literary genres. Students will also critique each other’s work in a workshop setting.

CRN: 23954 Online 2/3/20-5/3/20 Tran, Stephanie

ENGL 130 C Introduction to Creative Nonfiction Writing (3 units)

In this course, students will write original works of creative nonfiction while studying the evolution of the form and its narratological techniques and literary elements, including the form’s place in a variety of literary genres. Students will critique each other’s work in a workshop setting.

CRN: 23953 Online 2/10/20-5/10/20 Kaufman, Bret

Hospitality & Culinary Students Tour Marriott

In late October, Hotel, Restaurant, and Culinary Arts students toured Marriott Anaheim to hear from professionals in their field and see where a degree or certificate from the HRC program could take them.

The field trip included students from the Hospitality Law class and the Hospitality Leadership class. Marriott gave an orientation and walked students and faculty, including professors Jeannette Jones and Lisa Clark, through the heart of the house to hear from managers and key associates.

“It was especially fun to hear from the Banquet Chef, Patrick Duralde, former Cypress alumni,” Clark says. “We have dozens of students working for Marriott with many more over the years. Marriott is a long-standing educational partner. They serve on our advisory board, offer field trips, guest speak, attend career fairs and, of course, hire and develop our students.”

Professor Jones also works on call with Marriott. Clark calls her connections “invaluable” in coordinating these opportunities.

Cypress College Welcomes Prospective Students to Second Connect2Cypress Outreach Event on Nov. 5

Cypress College welcomes prospective students to its second Connect2Cypress event — an introduction for students to the college by connecting them with resources needed to foster a successful journey at Cypress College. The event takes place on Tuesday, November 5, 2019.

Connect2Cypress, featuring Majors2Careers, provides the opportunity for future Chargers to explore different academic majors and careers. The events features a resource fair, the opportunity to talk with deans, faculty, counselors, and current Cypress College students. Prospective students also learn about programs and services offered on campus, such as Charger Experience, Financial Aid, Associated Students, and how to enroll at Cypress College.

The Connect2Cypress event emphasizes Cypress College’s philosophical approach that all members of the educational community are on an interconnected journey. Connect2Cypress is intended to support the college’s Guided Pathways initiative, connecting students to success, completion, and employment.

“Connect2Cypress helps high school students start thinking about college. They are already developing a relationship with Cypress College as they learn about what we have to offer, and this event helps connect them with campus partners, while envision themselves on campus,” said Dr. Richard Rams, who serves as the dean of Student Support Services. “Through this event, prospective students begin identifying the services and programs that will support them in reaching their personal, academic, and career goals. Similarly, Majors2Careers helps underscore the relationship between education and careers for current students.”

Connect2Cypress featuring Majors2Careers is open to all current students. High School students participate by invitation only.

About Cypress College:

Cypress College offers students a pathway to their future in an environment in which employees commit to joining students on their educational journey. The college’s half-million-plus alumni include actors, athletes, doctors, executives, mechanics, nurses, and teachers. For some, Cypress College is the ticket into their university of choice, and for others, it provides essential training for a prosperous career. Just one Cypress College class is often all it takes to provide cutting-edge skills that lead to a promotion or a new job.

Cypress College’s 16,000 students and the highly qualified teaching faculty are proud of the many excellent academic and vocational programs. Cypress College offers 56 university-transfer majors, 176 career-certificate programs, and degrees in 73 areas of study. The college’s traditional semesters begin in January and August, while short-term courses start throughout the year. A Cypress College education costs $46 per unit — $138 for a typical, full-credit class — California’s lowest tuition. Financial aid and scholarships are also available to qualifying students.

Cypress College is one of three campuses in the North Orange County Community College District and a member of the 115-campus California Community College system. The college primarily serves the cities of Anaheim, Buena Park, Cypress, Garden Grove, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Seal Beach, and Stanton.

Located at 9200 Valley View Street in Cypress, the college is easily accessible from several Southern California freeways, including the 5, 91, 605, 22, and 405. The campus is just a stone’s-throw from Downtown Disney and Knott’s Berry Farm.


View this news release as a PDF

Instructor Exhibits in Louvre Museum

This month, Cypress College art instructor Paul Paiement exhibited at the Louvre museum in Paris during a special event. Annual art fair Le Carrousel du Louvre took place October 18-20 and included artists selected by a committee, based on nominations. Paul’s European art dealer Adelinda Allegretti submitted his work for consideration.

“It’s a huge honor to exhibit my paintings in the largest and most prestigious art museum in the world,” Paul said. “Drilling a screw into the same walls that house Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ was an incredible experience.”

Paiement selected four paintings from his Nexus series to exhibit. He was able to complete these paintings during a sabbatical from teaching at Cypress, a period in which he says he was “more prolific than I’ve ever been.”

The resulting work was well received at the show; Paul says the pieces created a lot of dialogue among visitors, and his painting ‘Nexus — Ronan, Montana’ was selected and published in the exhibition catalog.

“It was all very real,” Paul said. “By real, I mean tangible. I’ve read, seen documentaries, and heard stories about the Louvre. It’s has a ‘larger than life’ mythology. It has the largest and most comprehensive art collection the world has ever seen. Assisting the museum staff in the installation of my artwork was very real.”

The work exhibited in Paris was painstakingly created. Paul says during the school year, one of his paintings can take anywhere from 3-14 months to complete; during his sabbatical, his goal has been to complete one painting a month — based on a 40-60 hour week. The sabbatical continues until spring 2020 but even when Paul returns he will find a way to continue on this creative streak.

“I don’t find time to create — I create time to create art,” he says. While teaching, he commits to working in his studio three to five days a week.

Paul’s Nexus series bridges natural backdrops and engineered structures. It incorporates the elements that inspire him.

“I draw inspiration from concepts and questions about our reality. Questions like who are we? Who am I? What is nature? Am I part of nature? I hope these concepts are communicated to the viewer in my paintings.”

To view more of Paul’s exhibited work, click on his Carrousel du Louvre link here. You can see additional paintings by visiting his personal website here.