Baking is more than a hobby for Elissa Beerman; baking is a key ingredient to her recipe for a positively optimistic outlook on life, even in the worst of times. Elissa’s overtly jovial way of living is extraordinary, especially once you discover that she has remained positive and optimistic despite all of the curve balls life has thrown her way. After recovering from breast cancer (after her mother had the disease twice) and overcoming the pain of a family death, Elissa decided that it was time to give up her ten-year teaching career and take on another challenge — the world of pastry. “Elissa is an extraordinary individual,” said ICE President Rick Smilow. “The same fight in her will serve her will hopefully make her a force in the pastry and baking arts.”
It is because of Elissa’s extraordinary spirit and passion for baking that makes her a very deserving recipient of the Kevin Nurse Memorial Scholarship. The $10,000 scholarship was established to commemorate the life of Kevin Nurse, a triumphant individual whose boundless passion for food helped him prevail over remarkable medical odds and become a successful chef. Kevin Nurse underwent a lifesaving heart transplant in 2006.
After a year, Kevin contacted the donor’s family and discovered an amazing coincidence — the donor was working as a chef when he died. Kevin felt that he was meant to carry on the donor’s dreams and graduated from ICE in 2008. After Kevin passed away in 2010, ICE established the Kevin Nurse Memorial Scholarship to honor his memory. Given annually to a student entering ICE’s career training programs, the scholarship is a chance to change the life of someone who faces extraordinary medical challenges on their journey to fulfill their culinary dreams.
Inspired by her mother’s cooking from an early age, Elissa was always passionate about the culinary arts. But as she grew older, baking became a more integral part of Elissa’s life, and a great source of joy in times of celebration, uncertainty and sadness. When Elissa’s own mother (and culinary inspiration) was diagnosed with breast cancer, the uncertainty of the situation was out of Elissa’s control, but the joy of baking was an activity that provided comfort to Elissa, and to her family members who enjoyed the delicious treats. “Baking and reading are my two escapes,” Elissa said. “When you’re baking, you’re putting love into what you’re making. It gives me hope that I can get through anything.”
She shared her love for baking to positively impact those in need around her as well; whether it is a cake for her niece’s birthday, or cookies for her father-in-law in the final days of his battle against cancer, Elissa Beerman never failed to whip up some baked goods when her family was in need. Elissa Beerman will begin her Baking & Pastry Arts studies at ICE this September and will attend class three evenings a week, while also continuing her work at Bouchon Bakery. “I am so honored and blessed,” Elissa said, “I hope to walk in his [Kevin’s] footsteps of success.”
Correction (09.19.11): An earlier version of this article stated that Elissa Beerman had cancer twice. She only had breast cancer once.