Woman leaves Pentagon for Department of Desserts, stint in Kingman
Debbie Doggett (left) and Dora Manley at Doggett’s dessert workstation.
Doggett serves her pastry chef externship in Kingman
12/10/2012 6:01:00 AM
By Ahron Sherman
When she worked at the Pentagon, Debbie Doggett spent her time on biological warfare testing, disease outbreak investigation and vector borne disease testing. But now she bakes.
Doggett retired from the Navy and enrolled at the San Diego Culinary Institute and began studying to become a pastry chef. She's on the verge of graduation and needed to complete an externship. She ended up at Dora's on Beale Street in October, where she started a seven-week externship under the tutelage of Dora Manley, the restaurant's owner.
Doggett is not from Kingman, but she was in the Navy with Kurt Manley, Dora Manley's husband. Doggett asked him if she could do her externship at Dora's, and the arrangements were made.
"It's been phenomenal," Doggett said. "The experience has been head and shoulders above what my classmates got to do."
Doggett plans to open a bakery in Ohio with her three sisters, and she wanted to learn more about running an establishment and felt this was the best place to do it.
"Her classmates are slicing fruit," Manley quipped.
In school, she learned how to bake masterpieces in small quantities. Once Manley got a hold of her, though, she realized quickly that it's simply not realistic to bake like that in a business.
In class, she learned how to bake a batch of one dozen treats, but here she learned how to pump out 300 batches in a day, Manley said.
"And it all has to look exactly the same," she said.
When it comes to realizing the difference between baking for fun or in a classroom and baking for a business, one incident stands out above the rest.
Doggett used the yolks of 15-dozen eggs for something she was making, and Manley looked in the fridge and saw all those leftover egg whites and asked, "What about these?"
"Oh, I don't need them," Doggett replied.
Shocked, Manley told her she better find something to do with them.
"I was having egg white nightmares," Manley said.
It's instances like these where Doggett learned that everything has a price, so it's imperative to really keep track of the ingredients used and how much they cost.
Her externship ended this weekend, and Manley said the improvement she's shown is remarkable. She went from taking too much time to get just a few desserts completed to pumping out 100s of brilliant batches of baked goods, Manley said.
But Doggett taught Manley a few things as well.
She took the business up a few notches, Manley said.
She introduced an Autumn Leaf Cake that's become a customer favorite. She taught Manley how to do chocolate transfers, where to get almond flower cheap, and how great of an ingredient hazelnut is.
"I've learned so much from Debbie," Manley said.
When Doggett first entered the restaurant, her head was spinning. But as she got faster and more efficient, she realized that baking for hundreds of people is not impossible.
She baked desserts for the grand opening of the Stetson Winery, the wine festival at the museum and countless private dinners and catered events.
It's been a little stressful, Doggett said. But it doesn't compare to answering the phone at 5 a.m. and deciding whether or not D.C. Metro should be opened, as she did when she worked for the Pentagon.
Manley has enjoyed the experience so much that she may become a teaching restaurant in the near future. She's already been approached by the culinary school in Las Vegas to provide externships to students who live in the Kingman area.
"It should be fun," Manley said. "And now I know what to expect."
She learned from Doggett that many of these students don't know the basics of working in the restaurant business, so the next extern who walks through her doors will get a few days of orientation before being thrown to wolves.
"Adjust and overcome," Doggett said. "That's the key."