“Knowledge is a powerful thing. Try to learn at least one new thing every day, and never stop learning,” Carol Baisden tells her culinary students at Ivy Tech Community College in East Chicago. “Knowledge can be passed down, and its benefits are immeasurable.”
Baisden attended Ivy Tech herself in 2008, earning her associate’s degree in culinary arts. She had been teaching culinary arts classes there since 2007, and continued to teach while earning a bachelor’s degree in hospitality and tourism management, and a master’s degree in education from Purdue University Calumet.
Baisden’s passion for cooking has led her to serve in many roles, including board member for the Ivy Tech East Chicago (ITEC) Culinary Arts Department, ITEC Culinary Club Advisor, and board member for the Hammond Career Center’s Culinary Department. She has been a member of the National American Culinary Federation since 2005.
Baisden attributes her love for cooking and the culinary arts to experiences she had with her grandmother growing up.
“I learned how to cook with my grandmother who was from Italy. She was my role model, and taught me the passion of cooking,” Baisden said. “Everything was made from scratch in our house. We even canned our fruits and vegetables! My mom was the baker in the family, so I also baked with her whenever I got the chance.”
Baisden says several teachers and college professors have played influential roles in her life, but that her biggest fans by far are her husband and her children.
“They encouraged me to pursue my dream of going back to school, obtaining my master’s degree, and working in the field of culinary arts,” Baisden said. “At one point all five of us were in college at the same time, so it was tough juggling work, school, and a household, but it was well worth the efforts. I am the first of my siblings to receive a college degree, and I am very proud of that.”
While she always knew she wanted to work with her cooking, Baisden initially put that dream on the back burner, working other jobs until her children were through high school.
“It was then that I decided that it was time for me to do something about my dream,” she said. “My husband brought home information on a program that Ivy Tech that was offering for an associate degree in culinary arts. I toured the East Chicago campus and I was hooked.
Baisden says she wouldn’t change the journey at all.
“Every one of my jobs and everywhere I’ve been has helped mold me into who I am today,” she said. “Each one was a stepping stone, and a learning experience.”
Since earning her degree, Baisden has had an enormous impact on the young culinary students she teaches.
“I believe that being a positive role model is important. Teaching is all about passing down knowledge, sharing what I’ve learned and experienced to help educate those that are just starting out their careers.”
In addition to changing the lives of her students, Baisden has had an impact on the community in several other ways. She has served on the PTA at Hebron High School and volunteered with the Boy Scouts, seeing her son earn the honor of becoming an Eagle Scout in the process. She also began serving with Meals on Wheels when she became involved with the Northwest Indiana INO72 ACF chapter, of which she is co-vice president.
“Each March we do an event called Dine With the Chefs where all of the chefs in our Northwest Indiana chapter get together to cook, create, and donate all of our time and talents.” Baisden said. “All the food is donated and all of the proceeds go to the Lake County Meals on Wheels.”
She has accomplished all this while remaining incredibly active in her own children’s lives, attending all of their sports games, school plays, and events.
“It is important for parents to be involved with their children. It sets an example as a role model and teaches them that giving back and being involved with the community helps the community to stick together and grow.”
For Baisden, giving back to the community is rewarding and self-fulfilling.
“These organizations have helped me learn different ways to approach situations, manage, organize, develop new ideas, and network with people,” she said. “It has given me many friends that I would not have had the opportunity to know or even meet otherwise! The true value is in being involved with others, something than can benefit anyone in any community who is willing to give back.”