Hawks to Watch: Caitlin Hotzel, Pastry Chef

Why Caitlin’s a Hawk to Watch:

Caitlin has never been afraid to take a risk to pursue passions and achieve her dreams. The books Caitlin read during her English degree at KU inspired her to run with bulls in Spain and then move her life to London to start her culinary education at Le Cordon Bleu. Since then, Caitlin’s mastery of classic French pastries have landed her jobs in some of the most critically acclaimed restaurants in Kansas City, including Bluestem and Extra Virgin. Now a pastry chef at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Caitlin finds herself in the perfect place where her beautiful treats match the works of art that hang on the walls.


Picture of Caitlin Hotzel on the left. Caitlin is smiling and there is a beach in the background. Text on the right reads: Caitlin Hotzel Job: Pastry Chef at the Nelson Atkins Museum Age: 25 KU degree: B.A. English (2013)

Tell us, in 140 characters or less, what you do for a living:

I’m the pastry chef at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. That entails menu planning, researching and developing recipes, and—of course—cooking.

What do you feel is your biggest achievement so far?

Honestly, my biggest achievement is probably moving abroad to attend culinary school. I was the kind of person that had everything planned out, and cooking professionally was not in those cards, so it was a big deal for me to change directions. I moved 4000 miles to London in the process of charting that new course, and while it was terrifying at the time, I’m really proud of it in hindsight and would do it again in a heartbeat.

On the left an image of blackberries and pink macarons; on the left a cheese and crackers plate with apricot jam
A few examples of Caitlin’s creations. There are so many beautiful looking treats featured on Caitlin’s website.

What’s your lowest career moment and how did you pick yourself up and move on?

I was once fired in a text message! My first management position just was not a good fit for me at all. I was logging 60+ hours most weeks and dreaded going to work every day, but I felt like I had to pay my dues and stick it out. They were totally right to fire me—I started subconsciously under-performing because I felt undervalued—but they wouldn’t even take my calls to explain their side. I definitely had a momentary melt down on impact, but after a conversation with someone that knows me well, I realized just how unhappy I had been there and saw it as an opportunity for a fresh start. Within a few hours I had polished and sent out my resume to a handful of places, and four days later I accepted a job that I actually like going to!

What do you know now that you wish you could tell your 18-year-old self?

Text on the left reads: "Calculate the risk before you jump, but don’t be afraid to take chances! Things aren’t always going to go according to plan, you don’t have to have all the answers, and not all decisions are final." Photo on the right shows Caitlin in a chef's outfit preparing a pink desert in a kitchen.

Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

Still cooking, happy, and hopefully with health insurance; beyond that, I’m still figuring this out! I’ve really enjoyed my time in restaurants and fine dining, but production and events-based kitchens tend to be more conducive to family life should I choose to settle down. For now my options are wide open.

Some more of Caitlin's creations.

What’s your best career pro-tip?

Stop waiting to feel ready. All of the best opportunities and jobs that I’ve come upon have arrived when I felt woefully underqualified, but I took them anyway. Sometimes there were some growing pains, but growing pains mean growth.

What do you do after you’ve clocked out?

I like to explore the city with friends, maybe grab dinner and a drink. When it’s not oppressively hot outside, I like to sprawl out on the lawn of the Nelson with a book after work.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art lawn, via Wikipedia.

What is a fun fact about you that surprises people?

I reread “The Sun Also Rises” during my senior year at KU, and it inspired me to head to Pamplona after graduation and run with the bulls myself that summer.

Learn more about Caitlin, and see more images of her beautiful pastries here. All images courtesy of Caitlin except the image of the Nelson-Atkins Museum lawn (via Wikipedia).

Hawks to Watch are disrupters. They’re poised for greatness, inspiring their colleagues and excelling in their professions. Basically, they’re killing it. Having recently graduated, they are just starting to leave their mark and we can’t wait to see how their story unfolds. These Jayhawks span all industries including business, non-profits, tech, healthcare, media, law and the arts.