“A life-changing opportunity.” This is the phrase that four students and graduate chefs use to define their time at Dallas College.

Toyosi Sule, Thuy-Linh Carroll, Blake Andress and Christopher Benavides have all decided to trust this local institution for their training, and they are now contributing to transforming the culinary scene in D-FW.

Dallas has one of the country’s most ambitious and fastest-growing food scenes, and the need for professionals grows steadily.

While the number of jobs available for chefs and head cooks in the U.S. will grow by approximately 5% this decade, in Texas, the number of jobs available will increase by 37%, according to figures from Career On Stop, a site sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor.

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In Dallas College’s Culinary and Pastry Arts program, students graduate with an AAS in Culinary Arts or Bakery/Pastry. Each semester, it receives between 100 and 140 new students. This semester, 546 people are studying in Dallas College classrooms, according to data from the institution.

“Dallas is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, with so many people and an extremely high domestic immigration, which creates a lot of opportunity for our hospitality industry,” said Steve DeShazo, director of the Dallas College Office of Workforce Initiatives. “The opportunity for Dallas College to continue to make a difference in our students’ lives is just exponential.”

Sule, an influencer known on social media as Tye Sule, is just 22 years old and has nearly 830,000 followers on TikTok, where he showcases his qualities as a pastry chef. His dream is to be a judge in a television baking competition.

Carroll decided to make a life change and leave her career as a chemist in an oil company to pursue her true calling as a baker. During the pandemic, she founded her business, Buster’s Bakeshop, inspired by her love for her dog, Buster.

Andress comes from a family that has been involved in food for generations. Today, at 30, he is the executive chef at the Nikki Greek Bistro & Lounge after working at other high-end restaurants.

Benavides spent time watching Food Network shows as a kid, and today, he is the Culinary Supervisor at Hyatt Regency Dallas, where he plans to build his career.

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Toyosi Sule, influencer and a Dallas College graduate, poses for a portrait, on  Tuesday,...
Toyosi Sule, influencer and a Dallas College graduate, poses for a portrait, on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, Dallas College Culinary, Pastry and Hospitality Center, in Dallas. (Shafkat Anowar / Staff Photographer)

Toyosi ‘Tye’ Sule

Toyosi “Tye” Sule is a food influencer from North Texas who studies at Dallas College. His videos about pastry flowers, colorful cakes, bread braids, and culinary school study tips are popular on TikTok, where nearly 830,000 people follow him.

Social media has given him the exposure he never dreamed of. Even Dallas Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith discovered him through TikTok and commissioned a cake for his birthday, which catapulted Sule’s fame.

“For me, baking is fun, is beautiful. It can be artistic; it can be aesthetically pleasing. It can tell a story,” Sule said. “Even though sometimes I might not make the most extravagant cakes, I like to at least tell the story behind them.”

Sule, 22, is a student in Dallas College’s Culinary and Pastry Arts program, which prepares students to join the North Texas hospitality industry, one of the fastest growing in the country.

His passion for cooking began as a teenager, when he prepared food for his family. His parents are from Nigeria, where desserts and pastries are not as popular. In Dubiski Career High School, he participated in the culinary program, which opened the doors to the world of food for him.

“This whole thing started with me being passionate about cooking and baking in general because I didn’t have anything academically or physically sport-wise that I was really passionate about, so I started to lean toward the arts,” Sule said.

Sule entered Dallas College, and within weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, he launched his TikTok channel. Now, thousands of people follow his creations, like bouquets of cupcake flowers or sheets of shiny chocolate.

Sule was a beneficiary of Dallas County Promise, a program that supports students in need with tuition-free education. Despite being admitted to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), Sule decided not to invest too much money in his education or go into debt to get it.

“We are talking about costs between $30,000 or $40,000, something that is unrealistic, and even with scholarships, I couldn’t afford, so I decided to stay at my college and move on with my other projects,” Sule said.

In addition to being a social media star, Sule works at home on orders he receives from friends and followers. However, his primary income comes from sponsorships and his activity on social networks.

Sule wants to be a pioneer and work on new bakery techniques; he would like to be a judge in a baking competition on TV.

“My dream is to write a cookbook with my own technique and be able to teach it and have my own masterclass,” Sule said. “I want to have my place in the industry; I want to be in the books.”

Thuy-Linh Carroll, owner of Buster's Bakeshop and a Dallas College graduate, poses for a...
Thuy-Linh Carroll, owner of Buster’s Bakeshop and a Dallas College graduate, poses for a portrait, on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, Dallas College Culinary, Pastry and Hospitality Center, in Dallas. (Shafkat Anowar / Staff Photographer)

Thuy-Linh Carroll

Thuy-Linh Carroll, 41, decided in her mid-30s that it was time for a radical career change. She enrolled at Dallas College to follow her true calling to be a pastry chef. Now, she owns Buster’s Bakeshop.

After an eight-year career as a chemist in the oil industry in Texas, Carroll doubted whether there would be a promising future in baking pastries and if it was worth such a complete change, but she took a breath and set out to make her dream come true.

“I look back now and I’m thankful for having studied chemistry,” Carroll said. “But at the same time, if someone had guided me, I could have saved a lot of money and … followed my dream into pastry earlier.”

Carroll says that if she had pursued her career as a pastry chef instead of chemistry, she would have taken on less student debt and had much more experience.

The bright point is that now she uses her knowledge of chemistry to better work with the materials she needs to bake and decorate her creations.

Carroll graduated from Dallas College’s Culinary and Pastry Arts program in 2020. She and her husband planned to move to Las Vegas so she could work in hotels to get more experience, but because of the pandemic, everything closed, and that plan had to change. They decided to put down roots in Dallas. It was then that Buster, her beloved dog, was diagnosed with cancer.

“Literally, I started this business out of love for Buster because I wanted to make sure he had the best care he could have,” Carroll said.

From there, Buster’s Bakeshop was born. The business flourished amid the pandemic, with orders of all kinds at a time when many pastry stores were closed.

In 2021, she was part of the Crime Scene Kitchen, the FOX TV show, where the bakers had to figure out what had been baked just by the ingredients and other clues. Carroll teamed up with Jay Clifton.

For Carroll, one of the main advantages of having studied at Dallas College is the sense of belonging to a close-knit community, which provides students with the professional contacts they need to gain more experience and knowledge. All of this, in addition to offering a quality education at an affordable price.

“I worked my tail off to get a lot of scholarships and got a lot of them, so I urge people to apply to every scholarship,” Carroll said. “The money is there. People want to help you financially; you just have to apply for it.”

Carroll interned at Ron Ben-Israel Cakes in New York and other places, where she rubbed elbows with students from well-known culinary schools. The knowledge she gained at Dallas College got her there.

“I think Dallas College has done a wonderful job of nurturing our interests and giving us the tools that we need to be successful, to be community leaders, to really make a difference,” Carroll said.

Carroll’s dream is to give back to the community that has given her so much, and she wants to return to Dallas College to teach the skills that have brought her so much happiness.

Blake Andress is chef of Nikki Greek Bistro & Lounge, and a Dallas College graduate.
Blake Andress is chef of Nikki Greek Bistro & Lounge, and a Dallas College graduate.(Shafkat Anowar / Staff Photographer)

Blake Andress

Blake Andress returned to his culinary roots after trying several careers, like stand-up comedy and technology sales. His passion for cooking was stronger than the pull of any stage he ever put his feet on.

Now 30, Andress is the executive chef at Nikki Greek Bistro & Lounge, a new restaurant opening this month in North Dallas, and a graduate of Dallas College’s Culinary and Pastry Arts program.

Andress tried several paths before he got there, trying to find his true calling.

“I’m a late bloomer. I always say I was the flower that waited until after spring,” Andress said.

Andress comes from a family that has food in its blood. His grandfather is a butcher — he even lost a finger on the job — and his mother loved to bake. His extended family owned Harvey’s Barbecue Pit in Irving.

But Andress’ immediate family lived differently. His father owned a vacuum cleaner business. And as a teenager, Andress decided he wanted to be a journalist and a writer, but then he changed his mind.

“I just looked at my dad and all the hard work he did, so I said to myself, I’m going to play it safe, I’m going to give myself a business degree, just go get me a good-paying job so I can buy the toys I want, have life insurance, and maybe get a wife and take care of some kids and a family and, you know, no drama,” he said.

His plans changed again when, while in business school, he dabbled in comedy, doing stand-ups as a hobby, and that’s when he came around to the idea of becoming a food professional.

“Before I knew it, I started cooking and built a vegetable garden at my condo to grow my own food,” Andress said. “Then I started a food podcast and started doing my jams and pickled jellys business, farmer’s market style.”

While all this was happening, Andress was working in corporate finance and technology sales, making dozens of calls daily trying to sell software to large companies. He thought he should save up to start a business so his dad wouldn’t have to work anymore, and that’s when he began looking at culinary schools.

“I was tired of going to work every day and being very successful but not being happy at all,” Andress said.

He was offered a scholarship to a school outside of Texas, but didn’t want to leave his home. Someone introduced him to Dallas College, and he enrolled and studied there for a year while still working at his corporate job.

Finally, he quit his job and began applying for jobs at restaurants. He landed a job at The Mansion on Turtle Creek while in school, then worked on the opening of Mr. Charles, and founded Churi’s Private Catering with some friends. He graduated in 2023.

Months later, he was invited to be the chef at Nikki Greek Bistro & Lounge, which will open in late March 2024.

“Dallas College gave me not only the opportunity to make a name for myself in an industry I truly love, but it allowed me to be a chef, to be a leader, to have a career, to come home successful,” Andress said. “And all that without leaving my city, my family, my dogs, and I’m happy about that.”

Christopher Benavides is a culinary supervisor at Hyatt Regency Dallas.
Christopher Benavides is a culinary supervisor at Hyatt Regency Dallas.(Shafkat Anowar / Staff Photographer)

Christopher Benavides

Christopher Benavides’ hobby was watching food shows when he came home from middle school. He was a fan of Food Network and sometimes tried to make some of the dishes he saw on TV. He is now the culinary supervisor at Hyatt Regency Dallas.

“Food has always been an important part of my life,” Benavides said. “For me, food was always a reason to come together.”

Growing up, Benavides discovered that one way to make people happy was through food, so the people closest to him always fueled his vocation.

After graduating from high school, he went to work at a restaurant in Seagoville as a host for one year. In his second year there, he became part of the kitchen staff.

He enrolled at Dallas College in 2019 but found it difficult to keep up with classes remotely due to the pandemic, so he’s been on and off ever since. It’s been two years since he landed the culinary supervisor job at Hyatt Regency Dallas, and he plans to return to school at some point to graduate.

“I got into Dallas College because I didn’t want to spend a lot of money until I was sure this was what I really wanted to do, and I found it was a great program,” Benavides said.

Benavides paid for school expenses out of pocket by working part-time, so his main challenge was balancing his work-school life while in school.

In addition to saving money, Benavides decided to enroll at Dallas College to prepare himself and get a better overview of the different aspects of the culinary industry in the region.

Benavides plans to continue to grow his career at Hyatt Regency, which offers him different career paths.

As culinary supervisor, Benavides manages breakfast and lunch shifts, both in-room service and the restaurant, and supervises 12 people.

“I’d like to say to people: if you have a passion, and it’s something you really care for, that will take you way farther than any kind of money or privilege or anything like that you could be given,” Benavides said. “And that’s where a school like Dallas College can help you.”

One of the things college gave him was an openness to all the cultures there can be in food, he said, an ability that is a plus in hotels.