Baking your troubles away

The sweet success of the Great Falcon Bake Night

Annie Symons, Staff Reporter

Gracie Kavanaugh and Samantha Swayze prepare supplies for Barbara Vzm to take for The Great Falcon Bake night. (Marissa Lordahl)

No matter how dark life may seem, almost any situation will benefit from either a little care, a little time or a stick of butter.

Seattle Pacific University’s Student Union Board (STUB), in partnership with Sharpen, managed to masterfully mix each of these elements into an online baking workshop that took place on Jan. 29. The event provided students with a space to learn, laugh, and indulge in some delicious treats from the safety of their own kitchens or dorm rooms. 

Chris Studtmann, the campus executive chef for SPU’s Gwinn Commons, provided attendees with step-by-step directions for two different cookie recipes. He began by demonstrating how to prepare chocolate chip M&M cookies, a nostalgic family treat from his past.

“One of my main inspirations was my mom,” Chef Chris said. “Making cookies like this was the first thing I ever did in the kitchen. She is the one who inspired me first, and I cooked side-by-side with her my whole childhood.”

Through his detailed explanations, Chef Chris shared several tips for students who may not be the most experienced bakers. 

He stated that successful baking requires balance and precision; no one can simply toss flour and sugar in a mixer and cross their fingers for a perfect treat in the end. He cleverly suggested using an ice cream scoop when placing cookie dough on a baking sheet in order to guarantee that each cookie is the same size.

In accordance with Chef Chris’s instructions, students in attendance whipped up the second recipe of the night—no-bake peanut butter cookies. Sharpen and STUB distributed the proper ingredients earlier that day, equipping each of the event’s participants with everything that Chef Chris’s recipe required.

Chef Chris offered substitution ideas for those who may be health-conscious or struggle with allergies. The cookies could be made with almond butter, and students could add blueberries or cranberries to their dough if they wanted a brighter, fresher taste.

He also mentioned the sentimental value and comforting nature of baking, especially during a global pandemic where folks may not have the option to be present with their loved ones.

“Baking is what got me into food. Baking brings me comfort—it reminds me of family. It makes me remember those people that I don’t see or I won’t see, and… it’s just good memories,”  Chef Chris said.

Sophomore Victoria Thornton works as a Programmer for STUB. After witnessing Chef Chris’s skill in the kitchen, she developed a deeper appreciation for his work in the campus dining hall.

“I felt like hearing from Chef Chris was so fun. He’s definitely the kind of person that you want teaching you how to cook. I feel like I have another friendly face around Gwinn,” Thornton said.

She voiced her appreciation for Sharpen and thanked them for their contributions to the event, claiming that their collective efforts led to more students getting involved.

“Partnering with Sharpen was such a great opportunity. Advertising with them and partnering with them helps students [who don’t live in the dorms] know about this event,” Thornton said.

Thornton spoke about STUB’s new approach to their events this year due to coronavirus restrictions, but mentioned that some students have benefited from the shift to online formatting.

“I think STUB, like all the other organizations on campus, we’ve really had to put a lot of thought into our programming this year.” Thornton said. “This is definitely an event that STUB advertised towards commuters, students living at home, or residents in CHA because of their kitchens. This was definitely a different approach because I feel like most of the time we do advertise to residential students living in the dorms.”

Also a Programmer for STUB, Senior Samantha Swayze, who was in charge of running the Great Falcon Baking Night, agreed with Thornton. Swayze claimed that since favorite STUB events among students such as First Fridays and the annual talent show can no longer happen, the number of students attending the online events has been smaller as a result.

“Doing a virtual format, we’re not getting that turnout and it’s really been a challenge to adapt to that,” Swayze said. “We still need to encourage students to have that community, even though our events are online.”

Swayze hoped that an online baking tutorial during a pandemic would interest students.

“I drive off of what I think is fun,” Swayze said. “With quarantine, I picked up quite a bit of a baking craze. When that idea was suggested, I thought it was a really great idea and I thought it would be really fun.”

Swayze hoped to provide students with an enjoyable activity that might lead to some of them finding new friends—especially during a time where meeting new people can be challenging.

“I thought a baking night would be a great way to include all of SPU,” Swayze said.

Similarly to Chef Chris, Swayze grew to appreciate baking because of an inspiring family member.

“My grandmother and I are really close, and she’s an amazing baker,” Swayze said. “I grew up a lot with her food and her cooking.”

The Great Falcon Baking Night provided an opportunity for SPU students to bond with their peers while learning new skills from an accomplished chef. Although the event took place over a Zoom call, many students—Thornton and Swayze included—thoroughly enjoyed their time in their respective kitchens.

“It really picked my mood up. I had a really fun time, and I think that’s what [STUB events] can offer,” Swayze said. “Times are tough right now and this isn’t the college experience that we asked for, but I still think that it brings a sense of community. And even though that community is not exactly the same, we’re still trying to strive for that.”

Keep an eye on STUB’s and Sharpen’s Instagram for future resources and events @spu_stub and @sharpen.spu