Jessie Bostick spent years in the military and in security before discovering a talent in the culinary arts that she never knew she had. With Sugar Doodles, a new sugar-art school based in Millstadt, Illinois, she’s embarked on her third career path – one that’s proving satisfying on so many levels.

Bostick, who retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1998, worked with her husband as a private security analyst after leaving the service, but found little satisfaction in the work. About five years ago, she decided to make a drastic change: She enrolled in culinary school. “I loved cooking and wanted to be a personal chef,” she says. “We had to take baking as part of our curriculum. It exposed me to the world of sugar, and I absolutely fell in love with it.”

To hear Bostick tell it, she didn’t inherit her family’s dominant creative gene. (“I got the 'art appreciation gene' instead,” she jokes.) While her siblings excelled in all things artsy-fartsy, she stood out as the math and science nerd. So, no one was more surprised than she when she awakened a dormant flair for sugar art. “I found out I was good at it; I found something artistic that clicks with me.”

Now a certified chef and pastry chef, Bostick opened Sugar Doodles in July, where she teaches everything from cookie and cupcake decorating; gum paste, gelatin flowers, figures and animals; chocolate work; and sugar creations — and teaches it to anyone willing to have fun in the learning. Students can enroll in one of several monthly pre-scheduled classes (usually held at Toots' Cake & Candy Supplies or Fischer’s Restaurant, both in Belleville) or arrange for private-group or one-on-one instruction to tackle a project of their choice. Bostick’s uber-feminine Diva Cake – replete with edible girly accoutrements like pink lipstick and a fashionable handbag – is a fan favorite. Other classes may focus on gingerbread houses, adorable zoo animals fashioned from gum paste or realistically rendered edible flowers.

Although Sugar Doodles’ students are overwhelmingly female, Bostick says she gets students of every skill level, from the novice who wouldn’t know fondant from Play-Doh to the professional chef who wants his or her baked goods to look as good as they taste. “I do get pros who are trying to up their game, but it’s a mix,” she says. “Everyone has a great time, though. I really try to teach where there’s no stress.”

Group classes at Sugar Doodles start at about $30 per person, depending on the size of the group and the complexity of the project, and include the project recipes and all the supplies necessary to learn and practice techniques on pastries that students can take home at the end of the day. Each student who finishes the course will receive a certificate of completion.

Sugar Doodles, 618.476.1921, sugardoodles.org


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