Busy mom brings home baking perspective to Kansas Wheat Test Kitchen

Posted January 27, 2015

Julene DeRouchey
Julene DeRouchey has her own test panel for her baking experiments – her three children. And, in her new role as nutrition educator assistant for Kansas Wheat, Julene has many products for them to judge.  

“I love baking and trying new recipes,” Julene said. “I bring the busy mom and home baker perspective.” 

From Intern to Test Kitchen 

Julene is no stranger to Kansas Wheat. In fact, she started as an intern with the Kansas Wheat Commission, even before she started her studies in human ecology and mass communications at Kansas State University in 1997. After working for an agricultural Internet start-up and then in K-State Research and Extension, Julene stayed home to raise her children. But, she never stopped promoting wheat, serving as a Speak for Wheat spokesperson. 

“It is really about the people that you meet,” Julene said of the spokesperson team. “We all think on the same wavelength when it comes to educating consumers about the wheat industry and promoting home baking.”

One of Julene’s first tasks as an intern was to fill orders for the annual Kansas Wheat commission recipe books. As a spokesperson, she started testing recipes for the National Festival of Breads, having her family try the results. She also coordinated the prior National Festival of Breads’ Share Our Strength bake sales, which raised money for programs that help feed hungry children. Now, her primary responsibility is to help Cindy in the test kitchen, including evaluating the hundreds of recipes entered in the 2015 National Festival of Breads

“I enjoy reading through the entrants’ techniques and their stories,” she said. “It is fun to see what trendy flavors and ingredients people are using, like kale, chia seeds and agave syrup.”

With photos required for this year’s recipe contest, Julene said, “It is helpful to see how their products look and try to re-create it in our test kitchen.”

In addition to testing recipes for the National Festival of Breads, Julene is also working through the older annual recipe books to update ingredients, add nutritional information and take photos for the National Festival of Breads website and social media. She remarked that she now has to switch between her home baking style and a professional baking mindset. As a result, she said she is more precise with her techniques in the test kitchen as well as making finishing touches.

“Grocery shopping has become exciting,” after working at Kansas Wheat, she said. “I love using Kansas ingredients and being able to introduce my family to new foods and flavor trends.”

The Best Bakers Bake Together

Cindy and Julene run an efficient and innovative test kitchen, partially because they have known each other since Julene was a 4-Her in Pottawatomie County, where Cindy raised her family and was a 4-H bread leader. In fact, Cindy’s daughters would often trade County Fair 4-H Foods awards back and forth with Julene and her sister over the years. Julene’s specialty? A chocolate layer cake.

“She has always been a mentor I have looked up to,” Julene said. “Now I feel blessed to work alongside Cindy in the test kitchen.”

Her family may enjoy tasting her experiments at home, but judging from the delicious aroma wafting from the Syngenta “Speak for Wheat” test kitchen, Kansas Wheat staff is sure not to miss out. And with both Julene and Cindy working together, the 2015 National Festival of Breads will be bigger and better than ever before. 

Want to try making your own award-winning chocolate cake? Check out Chocolate Yogurt Cake by Julene.  

By Julia Debes