(WACO, Texas) – Texas State Technical College Culinary Arts graduate Adilene Camarena launched her Waco bakery, Around the World, in April 2020, with high hopes, fierce determination and a generous helping of optimism. The bakery is at Union Hall in downtown Waco.
One year later, the Hillsboro native reflected on her experiences and reminisced about her time in the Culinary Arts program.
“It was a really good experience, and it helped me learn how to work with recipes and make them better as I go along,” Camarena said. “I did the full program, with baking as my specialty.”
Camarena graduated with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Culinary Arts in 2016. She was already sure about where she wanted to go and what she wanted to do when she got there.
Clad in a simple black apron, she now stands proudly behind a glass case stacked with shelves of brightly frosted cupcakes, flaky puff pastries, and international treats like Canadian Nanaimo bars and French macarons. Camarena’s sugary brainchild is nestled in a quiet corner of the bustling food court.
“I lived in Waco when I went to TSTC. I really loved downtown, which has been growing and getting bigger,” Camarena said. “When the opportunity popped up, I took it. I know there’s potential here.”
Opening a bakery in the middle of a global pandemic was an especially precarious roll of the dice. But Camarena believes her mentors and training at TSTC helped prepare her to successfully run her own bakery.
“I took Advanced Pastry Shop with Chef (Paul) Porras; we learned methods and basic skills like how to make breads, cookies and cakes,” Camarena said. “All the chefs always gave good advice from their own experiences, and I enjoyed my time learning from each of them.”
Culinary Arts instructor Michele Brown considers Camarena’s success to be an example of an underrated program that has produced multiple local restaurant owners over the years.
“We’ve got chefs at country clubs, hospitals and doing fine dining. One of our graduates is head chef at Lula Jane’s, and another one owns HonkyTonk Kid BBQ,” Brown said.
Head chef and partner at Waco restaurant and bakery Lula Jane’s, Stacy Russell entered the Culinary Arts program after years in the auto mechanic industry and commented on how his training at TSTC prepared him for his current role as head chef.
“Those classes helped me in more ways than one. All the classes in the program were much-needed skills I used when I started at my first job,” Russell said. “Those that really love culinary arts will do what it takes to soak it all up. Always make the food that inspires you, and never lower your standards.”
Camarena’s inspiration is the core of her business model and resulted in her bakery’s theme. It would be easy to assume the young baker might be hesitant or indecisive, but one conversation with her proves otherwise. The confidence and passionate professionalism just beneath the surface stand out the longer you talk to her.
“I sell things like Nanaimo bars, and I have Canadians come in that get so excited — they always buy them,” Camarena chuckles, adjusting the mask that her smile has shifted around her face. “I’ve done a lot of research for different recipes for this place because the concept is ‘around the world.’”
Indeed, the bakery provides a sampling of desserts from around the globe, and the Waco community has quickly adopted it and made it a local staple for desserts and baked goods. Camarena’s one piece of advice to aspiring students? Tap into that resource.
“Join a community and get involved. Connect with people, especially local business owners,” Camarena notes. “Once you’ve done that, everything sort of falls into place with the right people beside you.”
Waco has invested in economic sustainability by supporting homegrown entrepreneurs like Russell and Camarena, a fact she expressed her gratitude for in the warm, humble tones distinctive to her character.
“I’ve learned along the way and gotten to meet a lot of people and make a lot of friendships,” Camarena said. “They decide to choose me as their baker and the place they buy their desserts from. That’s become something I’m very proud of.”
Registration continues for the summer and fall semesters at TSTC. For more information, go to tstc.edu.