Headed by Marda Stoliar, the International School of Baking is a school designed to meet the needs of every student regardless of experience. Isabella Bueso Flefil talks us through Marda’s drive and determination and how these have played a key part in making the school the leader it is today.
Established in 1985, the culinary school has been training beginners and professional chefs in the culinary art of baking. Founder Marda Stoliar is a lady of the world, and has been all around the globe, experiencing different cultures and tastes. These diverse cultures have given her the opportunity to be able to adjust to any situation and to adapt to the culture of her students.
Her teaching method is one in which she connects with her students and culture, permitting her to experiment with her recipes due to the different environments her students are living in. Marda also knows her equipment very well, and some situations have made her have to think outside the box to solve the issue presented to her. She was in China trying to teach her students how to make lemon curd, working above a place with pork rendering plants, when she noticed her copper cauldron had a significant hole in the bottom. To solve this prominent issue Marda placed very hot fire underneath the hole, which prevented the liquid from spilling out of the cauldron. To top it all off she did not have something to stir the curd with, so she went out to the streets and paid a women twenty US dollars for her broom handle.
After flaming the handle to make it clean, Marda was able to stir the curd and finish teaching her students how to make a fantastic lemon curd. In some cases, Marda has not been able to speak the language of her students, yet she manages to teach them by hand movements and gestures. She knows this method works as she learned how to make a ton of different types of bread in Venice, Italy speaking little to no Italian. Marda has also taught in situations in where people’s personalities and culture are a mix, in these circumstances.
Ultimately, Marda makes sure her students thrive by inspiring competence and confidence in them. Inspiring her students is something pivotal in Marda’s way of teaching; this is because she feels her success should be measured by her student’s success. To this day Marda continues to teach around the world and inspire people to become a better version of themselves.
Many times bakeries become the meeting place for communities; a mecca for conversation and comfort. It was at one of these bakeries in a small town in Louisiana that I was invited to visit. The owner, a former student, asked me to stay with her family in their home and to help her ‘fine-tune’ her one-year old bakery. This was a real venture into a new culture for me—with the occasional foreign language "and all’.
I arrived during the chili-roasting season. I was greeted by large cement mixers of charred chilies slow roasting over open fires that dotted the land. The aroma was as brilliant as the visual and as powerful a memory producing experience as a great perfume. Many of the homes appear to float on-top of the landscape. They are built a foot or so off the ground in the old Cajun style; being placed near the road with large fields of rice surrounding them on three sides. I noticed that they had little-to-no outdoor plantings of trees, grass or anything decorative to anchor the buildings to the land visually. Large turtles frequently crisscrossed roads, meandering to and from rice fields at their leisure. All this painted an un-usual American scene.
Bakeries in that area are as “unique” as their King Cakes. These cakes are very brightly decorated square cakes and are the only ones sold. Biscuits and pies are the breakfast norm and the typical greeting from the counter is one of two questions: “hoosier mama” or “Howsse your Mama?”. If she knows you, “howsse” your mama, is in order. If mama is good, the world is good. If by some obscure chance she does not know you, she knows that if she finds out who your mother is, she will immediately know who YOU are and the rhythm of the life goes on.
Mama’s daughters’ routinely come by the baker after aerobics, dressed in denim and diamonds and perfectly put together. Food is small, conversations warm, considerate, proper and so up beat. “Papa”, on the other had, was rarely mentioned except to talk about him “feelen poorly”. When the husbands showed up mid afternoon sporting wide, red spenders or well “broken in” denim overalls a healthy girth and, without fail, a gimmy cap. He ate well and was the real customer. Typically taking home snacks for “later” and something for dinner—if he had been instructed to do so.
Graciously they asked about my stay and offered all kinds of true Southern hospitality. I worked for a week and ate nonstop. I have never been served such buttery rich, full flavored seafood in such abundance offered with such love in all my life. I came home lugging the heaviest carry-on bag filled with two lifetime supplies of Louisiana Hot Sauces and great memories. Southern Hospitality is a subject the people of Louisiana have well defined and their bakeries are microcosms of everything good about the South.
As a child growing up in Portland, OR, my dream was to become a shoe designer. And, after graduating from the Pratt Institute in New York with a degree in fashion design, I became just that—a high-end Women's Shoe Designer. Breaking into the difficult industry and eventually forming my own successful company.
After my marriage and relocation to Tokyo, Japan, I became involved in the manufacturing for Buster Brown children's shoes and several other lines. But, it was my time in Paris that introduced me to baking the European way and inspired me to transition into baking.
In 1980 I opened a bakery in Bend, OR. I didn't hire trained bakers, instead I wanted to train my own staff to bake my way. I sought out employees with a passion for baking and a willingness to learn and follow formulas.
In 1983, after three years in business, I had to shut the doors to my beloved bakery, "Breads of France", due to debilitating hand problems. I was no longer able to teach and work, it felt like such a failure. I was devastated.
In 1986, I opened the International School of Baking completely by accident. I had been asked to work for US Wheat Associates, teaching bread baking in China, Macau and Hong Kong. During one of my early trips someone in the Chinese government decided they would send six students to my School in Bend Oregon. No matter how hard I tried to tell them that I did not have an actual school, they insisted and sent the students to "my school".
The group first arrived and traveled to Pendleton, Oregon; where they visited a flour mill. One of the students tried to defect at the local police station. He was told that it was not a good place to do this, as they didn't have the necessary forms.
Next stop was in Bend, where the would be defector was told to try Los Angeles—"Los Angeles is THE place to apply," they said.
I was afraid that if this got out, I would be deluged by students wanting to defect to the US! One gentleman did eventually immigrate to the US.
I continued to design shoes until 2000. I traveled to Korea for my shoe designing and manufacturing business and from there on to China to teach bread Baking. I made more than 40 trips over a 14 year period. I went to China to teach and in turn, China taught me even more.
Without the modern technology, equipment and "good" ingredients; the challenge was to teach bakers and educators how to create good, nutritious finished products in massive quantities.
The best lesson I learned was to have no mistakes at 3 tons. An oops at 3 tons is hard to dispose of. Second lesson I learned is that all flour is not equal and to check for protein content before trying to make bread out of noodle flour!
Today, I proudly host passionate baking students at my school in lovely Bend, Oregon. Each student that passes through my doors gets a unique and personalized learning experience.
International School of Baking
1971 NW Juniper Street
Bend, OR 97703
What Our Clients Are Saying
“I have been taking classes from Marda Stoliar for 18 years and have enjoyed every one of them. Some classes I have even taken twice! Over the years I have learned so much about breads, pastries, cakes, tarts, English muffins, bagels, and numerous other baked and chocolate goodies." Continue Reading From Lois Johnson (USA)