For Bailey Kirkland, a love for photography led to a career in culinary arts. She hadn’t planned it that way.
Originally from Alaska, Kirkland moved to Union in 2012. Her plan was to finish her online photography degree and eventually move back to her hometown to open a photography studio.
“Things changed,” she admitted. “For the better.”
After her move to Franklin County, she started a food blog online. She featured recipes she cooked for her significant other. “Before starting the blog, I had absolutely no previous experience with cooking,” she explained, “not even in my kitchen growing up!”
In 2014, Kirkland finished her degree in photography, but she decided she wasn’t done with higher education. She enrolled in the Culinary Arts Program at East Central College in the fall.
“My plan was to learn how to create stunning food,” she said. “That way, I wouldn’t have to pay someone for food styling when I began taking photographs of food for websites.”
Once again, things changed. While she still loved photography, she found a new passion – culinary competitions.
“The fear I experienced through competing pushed me to do better and continue to better myself as a person, not only in the way of culinary arts,” she said. “I was hungry for knowledge. I wanted to know where our food came from, how much it cost and what happens when you prepare it differently.”
After graduating with an Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts in 2016, Kirkland was hired at the Farm To You Market in Washington.
“I found purpose at Farm To You Market,” she said. “Getting my degree, I spent significant time learning how to craft a business plan, manage a kitchen and balance budgets. Those skills helped me get promoted from kitchen staff to Executive Chef and Manager of Barnyard Café.”
Though the eatery was in its infancy when she took over, Kirkland saw its potential for growth.
“When I first started, it was essentially a deli counter,” she explained. “We now serve breakfast, lunch and farm-to-table dinners.”
Kirkland is now helping spearhead an event that will put East Central College Culinary Arts students into the spotlight. On Thursday, March 8 from 4:30 – 7:30 p.m., Farm To You Market will host a free sampling event for the community.
“It’s an opportunity to meet the local farmers and producers who sell items at the market,” Kirkland said. “This year, we are also donating free product for the East Central College students to create something unique that will be offered for sampling. They will have the opportunity to experience using quality, locally-sourced products and really show off what they can do.”
Part of Farm To You Market’s mission, Kirkland believes, is to support and educate the next generation and make sure that there is a continued appreciation for where food comes from.
“As a prior ECC culinary student, I can say it is fantastic knowing the program is supported by local small businesses,” she said.
Kirkland also currently serves on the advisory board for the East Central College Culinary Arts Program.