Trading corporate life for culinary bliss

Molly Marzalek-Kelly ’06I graduated from Wheaton as an economics major, paired with a management minor, and my goal was to eventually obtain my M.B.A. and keep climbing the rungs of the corporate ladder until I was the next big CEO. However, when I discovered that the path I was on was not the right one for me, I changed direction.

Today, I am the head pastry chef at Baked, an award-winning neighborhood bakery in Brooklyn, N.Y. My goal now is to one day own my own bakery. This is my second act.

Second Acts

Life is a work in progress. Sometimes the career path is a meandering adventure. Here, in her own words, Molly Marzalek-Kelly ’06 tells us about her road to happiness in our occasional ongoing series featuring alums who have rethought their ways forward.

Tricolor_Sliced_01_originalImmediately after graduating from Wheaton, I moved to New York City to work at a law firm auditing cable companies, domestically and abroad, on behalf of the major motion picture studios. It took me almost four years at the firm before I realized this was not where I wanted to grow old, and that I needed to switch gears and do something that I actually wanted to do, something that brings me joy.

For me, the “aha” moment wasn’t, “I want to quit my day job and be a baker;” it was, “I’m not happy here.” The work didn’t excite me, and I realized that your work should contribute to your happiness.

So I enrolled at the International Culinary Center in SoHo while still working at the firm, received a degree in classic pastry arts, and said goodbye to my corporate life.

Baker IMG_6254I’ve been baking ever since I was a kid. Both of my parents were great cooks, so that always left dessert up to me. Being in a kitchen and baking is something I feel like I could do forever. There is something so incredibly satisfying about measuring out the ingredients, preparing each recipe, putting the product into the oven, smelling the aroma as it bakes, and then sharing it with your customers. The fulfillment of literally seeing the fruits of my daily labor is the most rewarding part of my day. I love knowing that my daily work contributes directly to others’ celebrations.

My biggest struggle throughout the past few years was that I worried that my economics degree would be “wasted.” But now I know that no education is ever wasted. I apply all of my economics knowledge to my life running the bakery, paying attention to trends, customer demand, the cost of goods bought versus those sold, the fluctuation of ingredient prices, as well as analyzing and setting sales goals.

This fall marks four years since I switched gears, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Going to work every day feels like a dream.

—Molly Marzalek-Kelly ’06

Have you staged a second act in your career?

The Wheaton Magazine wants to know. Email us and tell us about it at