Muskegon-Area chef competes on Netflix’s ‘School of Chocolate’

Chef Amanda Miller always knew that she wanted to work in baking and pastry arts, but she never approached this field with the goal of becoming an instructor, let alone competing on a Netflix reality cooking competition.

She embraced becoming an instructor, a role she has fallen in love with, and competing on “School of Chocolate” as opportunities presented to her.

Now an assistant professor at the Culinary Institute of Michigan (CIM) — Muskegon at Baker College, Miller started her culinary journey at the three-story facility in the heart of Downtown Muskegon as a student.

From Ludington to Muskegon

Hailing from the Pentwater area, Miller, a U.S. Army veteran, has resided in Muskegon since 2017. For four years before that, she commuted from Ludington to complete her education at the CIM. Miller went on to complete two associate degrees — the Baking and Pastry Arts degree (completed 2014) and the Culinary Arts degree (completed 2015). The following spring Miller began working at the CIM as a chef instructor.

Miller considers herself a hybrid in the industry, with a background and experience in the culinary arts versus only the baking and pastry side. Her passion for cooking is bolstered by her ability to pay attention to detail and utilize a creative outlook and refinement, which falls in place with her enthusiasm for the baking and pastry sides of the field.

From professor to reality TV star

As an instructor, Miller loves being able to take part in the development of her students. “It’s so rewarding to see the students grow from Day 1 to Graduation Day,” says Miller, adding that she gets to watch them go through the process of becoming a culinary or baking and pastry professional, which she experienced firsthand.

Miller’s credentials, including her role as the president of the American Culinary Federation’s West Michigan Lakeshore, led to Netflix contacting her about the “School of Chocolate” series, which premiered Nov. 26. As Miller describes it, the opportunity just kind of fell into her lap — she was reached through her Instagram page.

“I am always up for a good challenge,” says Miller, who adds that she is a competitive person, participating in many challenges through the CIM. Miller, who encourages her students to go outside their comfort zones, felt like she was “practicing what I preach” by taking on the opportunity that was staring her in the face.

Miller was one of eight pastry contestants being mentored by Amaury Guichon, a world-renowned chocolatier, with the goal of winning “Best in Class” and a prize package that includes a career-changing opportunity. 

‘Mind-blowing’ experience

Miller says the experience, which was filmed a year prior, was “mind-blowing,” because most of her rivals were from major cities. Miller also describes “School of Chocolate” as a different type of cooking show as, unlike most competitions, no one is eliminated in each episode. In the end, competitors get to learn and grow with one another throughout the seven weeks of filming in Los Angeles.

Miller, who also works occasionally at Patricia’s Chocolates in Grand Haven, envisions having her own chocolate shop in the future. In the meantime, Miller keeps busy at the CIM, in her leadership role of preparing future culinary and baking professionals.

Miller says anyone looking to follow in her footsteps must have a love and passion for the field, as well as drive and determination. She adds that this industry is not for everyone; “You have to put in the work.”

Read more articles by Shanika P. Carter.