A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

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Living a culinary dream as an SRJC educator

Catherine Ramirez
Kaldunski holds her book “The Ice Creamery” at the SRJC culinary center, where she’s been a faculty member for three years.

Twenty-three years ago, one young chef scored her first job at Apple Valley Convalescence Hospital where she fed patients. Little did she know she would be feeding people for the rest of her life.

Santa Rosa Junior College Culinary Arts Professor Shelly Kaldunski’s culinary career began at a young age. She grew up heavily involved with 4H, a national youth organization that provides opportunities for young people to experience the life of raising livestock and crops. Kaldunski’s parents often encouraged their children to experiment in the kitchen and to be self-sufficient when it came to food, Kaldunski said.

Baking drew her attention, and been her specialty since she began cooking in her youth. Kaldunski grew up immersed in the art, allowing her to develop and perfect it. “I have a desire to always be organized,” Kaldunski said, attributing her enjoyment and skill in baking to this habit.

Four years after her first job at Apple Valley she got her second cooking position at the Bohemian Men’s Club where she cooked primarily meat, potatoes and other “man” foods. In 1998 she began her five-year career at Charles Nob Hill working under Rob Siegel, America’s first Iron Chef, with three other women in their early 20s who were later dubbed “Charlie’s angels.” She then moved on to The Inn at Little Washington, a châteaux in Virginia that serves as a getaway for D.C. politicians.

Kaldunski’s final position before coming to SRJC was by far the most noteworthy. She worked as a ghostwriter for Martha Stewart Living and wrote a comprehensive cookbook titled “Martha Stewart Baking Handbook.” She was given two years to write the book – an incredibly long time in cookbook terms, more than enough time to test each recipe up to 100 times.

She enjoyed this sharing of recipes and knowledge so much that she went on to write five cookbooks of her own: “Cupcakes,” “The Ice Creamery Cookbook,” “The Art of the Cookie,” “Ice Pops” and “Sweet Scoops.” Kaldunski described her experience writing her first book as “fast.” Her publisher needed the information in just three months, a jarring change compared to the two years she had to write Martha Stewart’s book.

For the past seven years, Kaldunski has been enjoying her job teaching at Santa Rosa Junior College. She spent her first four years as an adjunct faculty member and her past three as a full time instructor. As far as a teaching philosophy, Kaldunski borrows the words of Father Joseph M. McShane, president of Fordham University: “I will never insult you with low expectations.”

Kaldunski said, “It is important to instill in my students high standards and high expectations.” She teaches a handful of classes each semester in SRJC’s culinary department from introduction to baking to meat and sauce preparation, and said that choosing a favorite class would be “like a mother choosing a favorite child.”

Kaldunski is relatively new to the world of college teaching. She said she feels at home in this learning environment because of its similarity to working in a restaurant, with constant collaboration and growth of the employees as they learn to synergize with the people working around them.

Kaldunski has no plans to change her profession. “I feel as though I have arrived at my dream job,” she said.


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About the Contributors
Devin Schwarz, Podcast Editor
Catherine Ramirez, Multimedia Editor

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