On a bright and sunny day, love and laughter fill the air as a family gathers to bake. Everyone takes part in the fun, even baby Myles, as he sits on the kitchen floor making music with pots and pans, sprinkled with the love and joy of his family — like sugar on a cupcake.
Thirty years later, Myles Hairston is all grown up, but he still remembers that day—the earliest memory of his childhood, where he was included in cooking with his family.
Now, Myles bakes his heart out every chance he gets.
As a recent graduate student at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, with a diploma in professional pastry arts, Myles is now kicking off his baking career while also a full-time staff member at Shenandoah University.
“I am the Associate Director of Brandt Student Center Operations by day and baker by night,” said Myles in his office during an interview on May 5.
Long and often late hours are normal for most bakers. They are known as “Baker’s Hours”— usually early morning or late into the night.
Myles has always loved baking, but the decision to go to culinary school was a “shotgun” decision, as he puts it, one he made in the spur of the moment during a staff meeting where he came across the website for Escoffier and decided to apply.
“I think it was the drive to do something more than a 9 to 5,” said Hairston.
Within the next few days, he got a phone call from the school stating they had received his application and asking if he would like to move on with the process. Myles agreed, then submitted a few pictures of food he had made and was accepted into the program.
“I wasn’t surprised at all,” said Maggie McCampbell Lien, friend and colleague of Myles, about the acceptance. “I was very happy for him. It just really made sense to me.”
The program, which he completed in December, was completely online and did not interfere with his job at Shenandoah. He would have one to two classes a week, and sometimes three depending on where he was in the program. Homework assignments were given on a weekly basis and could be done at his own pace, but were due before the next class. These assignments were a mixture of bookwork and baking assignments.
“My focus and passion to want to learn more is what kept me on track,” he said.
Eighteen months and one externship later, Myles put the icing on the cake by finishing school, eager to start baking for his clients.
For the past few months, he has worked his usual 9 to 5, then has gone home to bake for the night. Whether it be for a client, to better a skill, or just try something new, he spends half the night in his kitchen.
“I spend so much time in my kitchen baking, I don’t even want to cook [dinner] ,” he said. “I would rather just order out.”
“Mise en place,” which means everything is in order before you start cooking, is a phrase Myles described when talking about his nights spent in the kitchen.
“Personally, I would like to do everything the night before an order is due, but that can’t always be done,” he said. “I do as much prep work as possible though, that way everything is mise en place.”
Myles has whipped up treats for several events so far, like his grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary, a baby shower, birthday parties, Apple Blossom Festival, special holidays, and more.
“Those were the best cupcakes I’ve ever had,” said Amanda Tintaya, a colleague of Myles, when asked about the food Myles catered for her baby shower. “What’s great about his baking style is that he doesn’t overwhelm you. It’s the perfect amount of sweetness.”
Myles has made many desserts like cupcakes, cakes, cookies, and pies, but his favorite thing to make is sweet potato pie because it reminds him of his grandma’s. His pie is made from scratch from a recipe he created himself, and although it’s not his grandma’s, his family and grandma still approve of it.
“It’s a piece of home away from home,” he said.
Myles plans to continue developing his skill, but bake for established clients whenever orders come in.
In the long run, he hopes to grow his clientele within the Shenandoah University community and beyond, with the aspirations of opening a cottage-based business.
“My goal is to not only serve great food, but also always provide a memorable experience for the client and their guests,” Myles said.