Written by Payton Hartung, student news intern, University Communications
Whether it is baking, music or photography, Michele Falk loves working on her craft.
She enjoys it so much that she makes art pieces and bakes at least a dozen items to enter into the Big Fresno Fair’s competitive exhibits every year.
“I enjoy the challenge of learning new techniques and submitting interesting creations,” Falk said. “I must admit, it is very exciting to hunt through the buildings to find my entries and see a ribbon on them.”
Falk received three Best in Show awards at the fair this year and most of her entries were winners placing in the top three. Falk is the administrative support assistant for the Department of Social Work Education and assists the graduate coordinator for the Master of Social Work program.
Married with two children and three granddaughters, Falk has worked at Fresno State since February 2019. She enjoys the diversity of students, staff and faculty on campus.
When not working, Falk plays the contrabass clarinet in the Wind Symphony of Clovis under the direction of Gary Gilroy, director of bands at Fresno State. As an avid crafter, cook and baker, Falk collects cookbooks (she has over 300) and started a blog last year to share her love of food and her growing interest in photography.
Falk is finishing up her third associate’s degree and will graduate in the spring.
Campus News asked Falk a few questions about her Big Fresno Fair entries and her passion for cooking.
How long have been competing at the Big Fresno Fair and why do you do it?
I have lived in the Fresno/Clovis area almost all of my life, and never thought about competing in the fair until 2006. I started small with a few crafts and baked goods, and have steadily increased the number of entries a little more each year.
How have you done in the competitions in previous years?
I usually place with 70% to 80% of my entries. In 2014, my only entries were baked goods (14 total) and every single item placed. That was the year I received my first Best In Show, and I have been able to earn at least one every year since. Last year was my best set of awards. I received two Best In Show for crafts and two for baked goods, plus third place sweepstakes in clothing and textiles and second place sweepstakes in baked specialties. It was my largest number of entries with 45 entries in three buildings (Home Arts, Fine Arts/Photography and Floriculture).
How many baked goods did you submit this year and what were they?
I entered 24 baked goods and confections, 10 canned goods, six crafts and three photos.
Those items included: Grape jelly, grape jam, wine jelly, rose jelly, kimchi, banana butter, spiced grapes, cinnamon blueberry jam, sweet raisin rolls, raisin yeast bread, raisin quick bread, homemade mead, raisin bread, sourdough bread, olive gorgonzola bread, white rolls, wheat rolls, cheese bread, whole wheat bread, banana nut bread, pumpkin bread, zucchini bread, street cornbread, beer bread, cinnamon rolls, mango upside-down cake, cucumber lemon cake, caramels, chocolate cola cherries, olive oil muffins, olive oil bread, coconut cookies, oatmeal chocolate chip pomegranate cookies and saffron cheesecake.
What is it about baking that brings you joy?
My outlook for cooking and baking is to enjoy the experience. You have to be mindful when you are prepping and cooking/baking, otherwise you might get hurt or miss a step. I love playing with different flavors and textures, and being creative in making something ordinary like meatloaf or chicken taste even better. It is fun to fix dishes from other cultures or countries, and rewarding to try something new and have it taste delicious.
When did your passion for photography begin and what cultivated that passion?
My husband and I photograph my dishes for the food blog. The process has been very rewarding to learn. We can look back over the last year to see the evolution of staging and lighting placement in regards to the finished dish and photo. The photos that I submitted for the fair this year were things that caught my eye — a glittering leaf on a tree, my cat and a spiral-root carrot from my garden.
Learn more about Michele’s and check out her blog at Have Fork, Will Travel.