Employee Highlight – Meet Alicia Klein, Evolving from El Gaucho Hostess to Pastry Student in France

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Alicia started with El Gaucho as a hostess, and is now a full-time baker at AQUA by El Gaucho. She will be studying pastry in France for three months starting in April.

“At some point you have to accept a certain level of imperfection,” is one of Alicia’s favorite quotes; it’s what her pastry chef at school says regarding cake decorating.  Alicia notes, it can certainly be applied to other areas of life, too.

Alicia Klein, aka “Lish” or “Cookie,” didn’t always like baking. In fact, she stayed away because she lacked the precision and patience it requires.  About five years ago she had a change of heart. Her co-worker at El Gaucho Tacoma, Julena (current guest relations manager), would bring in homemade cupcakes to share with the crew.  Intrigued, Alicia gave it a try.  She recalls her first attempt at cupcakes came out a grayish color and the frosting was curdled – a far cry from her intended lavender color with creamy frosting.  However, she tried again, and continued to improve with each batch, until she became hooked.  It quickly became a hobby, and she, like Julena, would bake and give away her tasty treats to anyone who requested them. One day a lightning bolt struck her: “I can get paid to do this!”

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Alicia plating just a few desserts at an AQUA by El Gaucho event

She sought out formal education and is now pursuing her Associates Degree in Baking and Pastry from the Art Institute of Seattle, with her goal to become a pastry chef.  Even though she’s a full-time student, she bakes full-time for AQUA by El Gaucho, and even helps with administrative duties in the corporate office.  Alicia has spent her entire career with El Gaucho Hospitality, starting at El Gaucho Tacoma nearly seven years ago as a part-time hostess at the ripe age of 20, and has worked her way through a variety of positions within the company, including bookkeeper and private dining manager.

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Alicia recently discovered another passion in the arts – Flying Trapeze!

Baking is not the only arts hobby she has recently discovered, however – she also takes weekly classes at Emerald City Trapeze Arts. Known for her love for sugar and desserts, her trapeze nickname is “Cookie.”

Through school, Alicia was offered the opportunity for an exchange program to study abroad. She applied as soon as she heard, and out of all applicants, was the one accepted.  On March 29th, she will travel to Nantes, France to further her studies in baking. “It’s hard to describe how much this exchange program means to me!” Alicia exclaims.  “The knowledge, skills, cultural enrichment, and experience I will gain are absolutely priceless! I have always had a strong interest in France and learning the language.  In my quest to become a pastry chef, this exchange program is an invaluable step on that journey. I want to learn anything and everything I can about baking and pastry!”

Alicia will live for three months with a host family while studying. She’ll return on June 20th to  share much of her new-found knowledge with guests and teammates at AQUA by El Gaucho.

How you can help Alicia and her continuing education:

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One of Alicia’s beautiful cakes. You might find something like this at her bake sale on March 27th in Tacoma.

Since school is not financially helping for her trip, Alicia is trying to raise money to help with expenses. She has set up a fundraising website page where people can donate to help her with this exciting education experience: http://www.gofundme.com/HelpAliciaStudyAbroad  

Additionally, Alicia is hosting a bake sale on Thursday, March 27th beginning at 5pm at Gingko Forest Winery, 2221 North 30th St in Tacoma.  She will be selling a variety of items like granola, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and in preparation for her travels, quite possibly croissants and French macaroons.

More of Alicia’s Favorite Things:

  • Food – Anything that has sugar in it. No surprise that dessert in general is her favorite.
  • Drink- Sangria & Mojito
  • Book- Man, Interrupted
  • Quote or Mantra- “You always make time for what’s important.” (Alicia’s mom always told her this while growing up).
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    Gumpaste roses, both Alicia creations, and completely edible!

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