Annette Damavandi, head baker of Chartwells (SUU Dining Service), recently won the National Baker of the Year Award for the Chartwells Higher Education sector. The award took her by surprise because she didn’t know she had been nominated. Natasha Green, SUU Dining Service Marketing Manager, entered Damavandi without her knowing.
“It was a no-brainer to nominate Annette,” Green said. “She has been with us so many years. And sometimes the baker doesn’t get the most recognition because, it’s the baker. But she is the mastermind behind all of our sweets and desserts.”
Damavandi’s application was submitted in May and just two weeks before school started, Green received an email stating that Damavandi won out of 285 schools across the United States.
To surprise Damavandi, Green set up a fake conference call with some of her marketing team and the CEO of Chartwells, Lisa McEuen, to tell her the fantastic news. Damavandi showed up to the conference call with a pen and some paper prepared to take notes. Then McEuen said over the phone, “We tricked you. This was a ruse.” It took Damavandi a minute to understand what was going on. McEuen proceeded to award Damavandi with Baker of the Year. Annette and everyone else in the room shed a few tears.
Damavandi recalls the moment by stating, “It was a total shock and surprise. It was an honor to win this award. I have worked so hard. I’m glad they felt I was deserving of being nominated. I have just been going through life in my own little baking corner and it’s been nice to feel appreciated.”
This award was a long time coming for Damavandi. She has dedicated her life to the culinary arts. Her love of baking came from her mother Mary May. Growing up, Damavandi was her mom’s right hand in the kitchen. Her mother let her play with the bread and cookie dough. Mary May had so much faith in her daughter that she was designated the official “cookie counter.”
Damavandi worked a variety of food service jobs throughout her life starting at the age of 16. In fact one of her first jobs was working banquets here at Southern Utah University while her mother was the head baker. Once her mother retired, Damavandi took her place as head baker and has been on contract for the past 34 years.
Later this year Damavandi will give back to the community by hosting a meet and greet with the chef. She wants to say thank you to the community that has helped her become the baker she is today.
In a few years time Damavandi will leave Southern Utah University, the place she has called home for so many years. She will be missed here at SUU, but looks forward to opening a candy shop. Until then, stop by Outtakes and enjoy a delicious cookie baked by our very own Annette Damavandi.