We all know the famous lunch dessert on main campus: the Rand cookie. But most people may not be aware of the work that goes on behind the scenes of the bakery section of Rand Dining Hall, nor do they know the chefs who bring those cookies fresh out of the oven for the lunch rush. Tasheta Chavez used to be one of those chefs, and the former Campus Dining pastry chef now owns her own pastry business: Sheta’s Sweets.
Originally from Michigan, Chavez found her love for the culinary arts at Oakland High School in Tennessee, inspired by her culinary arts teacher. Chavez proceeded to attend The Art Institute of Tennessee to obtain a degree in Culinary Arts. While there, she not only learned baking and culinary skills, but also gained experience in the field working for Belmont University. In Dec. 2012, she joined the Norwegian Cruise Line pastry team, working on multiple contracts while stationed in Hawaii. At the cruise line, she worked with her college friend Alexis Roberts, who went on to be the head pastry chef of 21st Ave’s Caviar and Bananas.
“Your degree tells you you know it all, but in all honesty you don’t until you get into that workforce, into your actual field, and you realize, ‘Wow, this is the life of a pastry chef. This is the life of an artist and this is what I want to do,’” Chavez said.
In 2013, Chavez came back to Tennessee and joined the VU Campus Dining team. Starting as an entry level prep cook in Pie & Leaf, Chavez worked her way up to become a baker’s assistant and then the head pastry chef. She said her culinary skills go beyond sweets, referencing the savory experience she gained while working in catering at a local barbeque restaurant while attending the Art Institute. However, leading the pastry team at Vanderbilt, Chavez sold the daily masses of students everything from chocolate chip cookies to lava cakes to pecan pie.
“Working with the students definitely taught me a lot. At any given time, I was serving a couple thousand people, and ten or twenty thousand people during the busy times. So that got me the experience of mass production, making large batches,” Chavez said.
After she resigned from VU Campus Dining in 2017, Chavez hit the ground running on a mission to make her high school dream come true. She started her own business, Sheta’s Sweets, and with two assistants and three brand ambassadors, Chavez now creates everything from cupcakes to wedding cakes in a satellite kitchen, all made from local ingredients and from scratch. With the desire to share something special of her own with her community, Chavez brings a passion that lifts spirits and spreads sweetness to those around her.
“You might be fearful to jump out on your own, but I knew that no matter if I was going to fly or flop, it was what my heart wanted to do,” Chavez said.
Sheta’s Sweets has since then expanded: it ships to other states and plans to start a food truck in the spring of 2020. Currently, alongside managing her business, Chavez works as a supervisor at UPS and is double majoring in biochemistry and food science and nutrition at MTSU, with a concentration in dietetics. Being able to pair nutrition with the culinary skills she has makes her more excited to be able to serve those with special dietary needs in the future.
“I’ve always had a love and passion for food. I love to eat it. I love to make it. I love to give it to people to make them happy,” Chavez said.
If you’re looking for a sweet treat, check out Sheta’s Sweets on Instagram @shetas.sweets and Facebook.