By Jordyn Nobrega
From a 140lb white chocolate Taj Mahal to a desert sculpture featuring The Grim Reaper on a trike chopper, Chef Sean Pierce has a long history of implementing creativity and innovation in his baking.
October 16th through the 22nd was Chef Appreciation Week. In honor of this, Merrimack College’s pastry chef, Sean Pierce, held a dessert takeover event at
Sparky’s Place. There, students had the opportunity to try his delicious Strawberry Cobbler.
Katey Bank, a senior at Merrimack College, walked away smiling from the dessert station with a heap of strawberry cobbler served in a cup with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.
“It’s bursting with flavor and it was nice meeting the chef behind it,” said Bank.
Chef Sean was kind enough to put aside time to discuss his experience in the culinary field and reflect on his first year at Merrimack College.
While facing many challenges, Chef Sean learned a lot in his first year here. Chef Sean began at Merrimack last November. Since November is a busy time for holidays and there had never been a pastry chef position before he came to Merrimack, he learned on the fly.
Sean Pierce had worked in offices and for banks up until he was 32 years old.
This is when he decided to pursue a career in culinary. After Chef Sean got his two-year degree in culinary, he was awarded a scholarship to continue his education. He became aware through schooling that he excelled in pastries. He was able to study abroad in Switzerland, France, Austria, and Germany. Chef Sean got his bachelor’s in baking pastry and is also certified in wine.
“I just continued, and now I love to work with sugar. Sugar work, chocolate work, cake work, and sculpting. It’s because it ties in my artistic craziness with food. And if I don’t like it, I eat it and start again,” explained Chef Sean.
Chef Sean was able to unlock his full creativity while competing with long-time friend and partner, Jorg Amsler, who is a classically trained pastry chef originally from Switzerland. Chef Sean brought his modern techniques to the table. Together they received a lot of attention for their unique new-school and old-school hybrid sculptures.
The pair was able to do fourteen Food Network shows and walked away with 3 gold medals. Chef Sean and Chef Jorg made many sculptures including making the city of Boston out of Rice Krispy Treats, sugar and chocolate, Ghostbusters and Freddy Kruger gingerbread, and more.
The team also had the honor of making sculptures for many pop culture events including Miley Cyrus’s Sweet 16, Shrek the Musical, and were even able to travel to Las Vegas to perform.
Chef Sean admitted that he values the feedback that he gets back from the shows and that many audience members have written to Food Network in the past asking for him and Chef Jorg to return. Although he doesn’t enjoy seeing himself on TV when flipping through the channels, he isn’t fully opposed to competing on another show again one day.
“Anyone makes cookies and brownies. That gets monotonous after a while. It’s the show pieces that are fun to do because then you get to show up what you can, you know what you can do for people, and it amazes people when they see it,” explained Chef Sean.
Chef Sean has worked for many colleges previously and was surprised to find out that the dessert volume at Merrimack was at least three times more than the volume for the other colleges he has worked at. This is due to all of the functions and events Merrimack holds on its campus.
Chef Sean is thankful that with the holidays and busy hockey season at Merrimack, he could add two very talented assistants to help him with daily tasks. This allows him greatly when he makes his long commute from Brockton to Merrimack in the mornings. Even with the long commute, taking the job at Merrimack was a no-brainer for Chef Sean.
When Covid hit, he got laid off from his previous job and decided to do online training to be a radiology technician. With one course to go, Merrimack called Chef Sean upon recommendation from a friend and asked him if he would be interested in looking at the school.
Chef Sean brought the clever idea of combining the use of mixes as well as creating pastries from scratch to help with time, volume, and space. He is known for adding an artistic twist to his desserts to make sure to give what the kids want to eat while making it special.
Merrimack College gives Chef Sean the freedom to be as creative as he wants.
The only limit that is given to him is dietary restrictions.
Chef Sean explained that Merrimack is very cautious about allergies and sensitivities that may be present in his baking. This has given Chef Sean a chance to come up with his allergen-friendly recipes, experiment, and adjust his recipes accordingly.
With lots of practice and trial and error, he has prided himself on achieving the ultimate goal of making his pastries that do have dietary restrictions undetectable so that everyone can indulge in them.
One of Chef Sean’s favorite parts of being a pastry chef is doing large catering set-ups and events. He enjoys making breathtaking and larger-than-life sets that are visually appealing for guests.
Currently, he is working on making a giant gingerbread church for Christmas. The vision he has is European-style without candy and instead using icing and sugar for the details. He is excited to now be at a Christian school and experiment with Christmas colors and holiday goodies.
Some advice Chef Sean would give to an aspiring chef is to be ready to give up your personal life. He recommends that if you want to grow, go someplace, learn what you can and when you’ve stopped learning, move on to something else. He believes that you can learn something new every day and you should never stay where you are not happy.
Chef Sean looks forward to making more extraordinary desserts for Merrimack College events. Currently, he works on weekly desserts for The Mack Club and is beginning to plan for upcoming holidays and the renovated church opening. Be sure to give some of his tasty treats a try!