When guests bite into a muffin at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, they may experience a rush of flavor such as chocolate fudge with allspice and nutmeg. But the experience doesn’t end there. The hope is that these flavors will transport them back to their childhood when warm, sugary treats meant there was something to celebrate.
Disney’s Vero Beach Resort’s Baker and Pastry Chef Carollynn is the mind behind these muffins. Carollynn is a graduate of the pastry arts program at Culinard, the Culinary Institute of Virginia College in Fort Pierce.
Carollynn always had a passion for baking and cooking. Watching her grandmother bake cakes as a child was a major source of inspiration. As she grew up, Carollynn began a different career path but never stopped baking and cooking. She would prepare dishes for parties and gatherings and always received compliments on her food.
“I always had a passion for baking and cooking,” Carollynn says. “I always used to do it when I was a kid. I never acted on it, but it's something that I always enjoyed. I loved cooking for people, and I was always in my grandmother’s kitchen.”
How Pastry School Changed Carollynn’s Career
It wasn’t until 2016 that Carollynn chose to pursue her passion. She enrolled in the Pastry Arts program at Virginia College.
“I loved going to pastry school so much, and I would always get there early,” she says. “It was so much fun — the teachers made it fun. They were tough, but they really taught us our stuff. They really pushed me to be the best I could be. I learned so much and it was a wonderful experience.”
Returning to school rekindled a love for cooking and a desire to succeed for Carollynn. Being the oldest of the students in her class, Carollynn took it upon herself to try and be the best.
“One of the younger kids in the class and I used to compete and try to be the best,” says Carollynn. “We would encourage each other, as well — when I was down he would lift me up, and when he was down, I would lift him up. The friendships I developed were amazing.”
The healthy competition in the pastry arts program kept Carollynn motivated. When an opportunity to work with Disney came along, she didn’t miss her chance.
“Disney came in and did a seminar for us, and I thought it was my chance,” Carollynn says. “I went in for an interview, and they hired me on the spot. They made an offer, then they called me back and made a better offer.”
Becoming a Pastry Chef at Disney
Carollynn began at Disney making basic pastries and breads. She used the experience she gained at Virginia College to create rolls, cakes, pies and muffins. Then, one day, her boss came to her with a request.
“My chef told me to come up with and create ideas for him to taste test,” Carollynn says. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I just got out of school, what do I do?’ So I called my old teacher and she told me that she knew I had it in me to create something special.”
Carollynn opted to make muffins. Not just any muffins, though — Carollynn began creating muffin recipes unlike anything the resort had ever seen.
Initially, the head chef had requested six recipes. Carollynn ended up giving them 25.
Her recipes included muffin flavors such as pineapple orange creamsicle, mocha latte, apple crisp and bacon chocolate cinnamon roll.
Carollynn also created the Mickey Mouse Whoopie Pie — a vanilla whoopie pie with chocolate and buttercream cut in the shape of the resort’s iconic mouse.
She says that the idea behind her muffins is to use food to bring people back to a childhood memory.
“My favorite thing is seeing people’s face when they take that first bite,” says Carollynn. “I love to see their eyes roll back and hear them say, ‘Oh my gosh this reminds me of...’”
She hopes the orange creamsicle muffin brings people back to warm summer days with ice pops, and she hopes her apple crisp muffin reminds guests of their grandmother’s cooking.
“I love that it brings them back to a great memory. It’s so touching to hear people say they love your food,” Carollynn says.
As a baker and pastry chef, Carollynn is now responsible for all the desserts at the resort, the bar, the Wind & Waves Grill and Wind & Waves Market. She’s thankful for the opportunity to wake up every day and work at Disney, and she’s especially thankful for those who helped her get there.
Now, Carollynn tells current students that if they have a passion in their life that they should “go for it — don’t wait.”
“I regret not doing this sooner,” Carollynn says. “I didn’t realize that this was my passion. I didn't listen to myself. So if they have a passion they need to go for it.”
Virginia College does not guarantee employment or advancement.