Pastry Chef By Day, Roller Derby Star By Night

Kendall pastry grad whips up sweet treats and carnage.

As far back as second grade, Leslie Morris wanted to bake. Sneaking behind her mother's back, she would go to the kitchen and teach herself how to make cookies. Back then, cleaning up was left to her mom.

These days, Morris cleans up both in her kitchen and on the roller derby track.  

Morris is a blocker for the Fury, a home team in the Windy City Rollers league. Under the intimidating nickname of "Carnage Wilson," jersey No. 150 mops up opposing players trying to score against her team.

Owning a busy cake and pastry business, Baking for the Taking, is the other side of her life. She also teaches cooking at Bespoke Cuisine in Chicago's River North neighborhood.

"Doing derby and teaching and running a business is so stressful," Morris said. "But if I didn't love them both, I couldn't do it.  And derby's the only real reason I'm not 500 pounds."

Evanston's Kendall College culinary arts program taught Morris very well, and Baking for the Taking continues to expand due to good word of mouth.

Morris, who has a bachelor's in theater from a Missouri university, was looking for a career change when she found the program at Kendall. Since the curriculum allowed her to concentrate on baking and pastries, she knew she had found her calling.

"The programs were the main draw," Morris said of Kendall. "I liked that everyone was a bit older and more serious.  It was extremely hands-on, real world experience."

The system was great for networking, if a bit nerve wracking.  "I was never not stressed," Morris recalled.

If anything, Morris said, she has become even more stressed today, but it is a stress of her own choosing. The 2003 Kendall grad learned a lot in Evanston, and those hard lessons often have her heading to the kitchen at midnight.

These days, she has orders that need to be fulfilled before she can go to derby practice.


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