It is 1 in the morning.
As many college students are sleeping in bed, Patsy Melendrez is
arriving at work at the Residential Dining Services’ Bake Shop.
“We are making sure the kids are fed,” said Melendrez, the bake
shop’s production manager. “Everyone enjoys sweets and it makes me
happy to see the smiling faces when students eat them.”
CSU’s Bake Shop employs a staff of eight people who arrive in
staggered shifts early in the morning hours to provide baked goods
for the residence halls, campus catering and Sweet Sinsations in
the Lory Student Center.
Despite the darkness outside and the clock’s early hours, the
bake shop is filled with employee’s whose faces shine with
“I like it all because it is all a learning experience,” said
Dennis Swanzo, a baker’s assistant who has worked at CSU for seven
months. “I’m in hospitality school at Front Range (Community
College) and this is my livelihood. I just enjoy it all and the
people I work with are really fun.”
CSU sophomore Samantha Funk started working at the bake shop
four weeks ago and said she enjoys the environment, despite having
to wake before the sun rises every morning.
“Even though it’s early, it’s really fun to get to play with all
the dough and the smells are always nice,” said Funk, an
Unlike Funk, Mark Valdez, a baker who has been in the business
for 20 years, said he views the early morning hours as a positive
aspect to his job.
“I don’t get a full night’s sleep, but I sleep on Saturdays,”
Valdez said. “It’s just a part of me and it is nice because once I
am done I have the rest of the day and I can go play hockey.”
While it may seem peaceful to work in the small kitchen, a part
of Johnson Hall, filled with large mixers of swirling dough, long
benches lined with cakes waiting to be iced and pizza dough waiting
to be shaped, Executive Chef Karl Bendix said his job is very
“It’s always a challenge, sincerely, there’s not a lot of down
time,” Bendix said. “There’s always something that needs to be
started, completed or modified – there are new projects all the
Valdez said that regardless of the new recipes he tries, his
favorite baked good remains the Danish because of the individual
effort that goes into baking it.
“I do the process from the beginning to the end, so it’s kind of
mine,” Valdez said. “I mix it back here, take it to the bench; it’s
all my effort that went into it when I see it in the halls.”
The passion that Valdez feels for his work is common among the
bakers and consequently many people who work at the bake shop
conclude their careers there, Bendix said.
“Most people that bake really enjoy it,” Bendix said. “That’s
why they are here doing it and that’s why there’s a longevity to it
because there is a certain level of love and compassion that they
bring with them.”
Every day the baked goods must be ready for delivery just after
6 a.m. so that the shipment arrives at the residence halls and
other university locations around 7 a.m.
Deon Lategan, director of Residential Dining Services, said the
bake shop staff “offers students a wide variety of freshly baked
high-quality products that would not be readily available
As a result, he said the people behind the scenes in the Bake
Shop make a big impact on everyday campus life.
“We are very fortunate to have such a dedicated crew over at the
Bake Shop,” Lategan said. “While most of us are still asleep they
are working hard to produce all those mouth-watering pastries,
cakes and cookies that students enjoy every day.”
Nathaniel Wessel, a delivery employee, agreed. As a student
living in Ingersoll Hall, he sees the bake shop staff’s work from
beginning to end.
“I always see the stuff I deliver earlier in the day,” said
Wessel, a freshman open-option major. “My friends love (the baked
goods) and I tell them ‘You wouldn’t be eating that if it wasn’t