Photo courtesy Xandria Simms Xandria Simms works on a cake in her kitchen for her new business Boho Bakes.

Photo courtesy Xandria Simms Xandria Simms works on a cake in her kitchen for her new business Boho Bakes.

Student takes school cooking course to the next level

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Sunday, September 11, 2016 10:00pm
  • News

Scattered between photos of friends and family on her phone, Xandria Simms also keeps snapshots of the intricately decorated cakes and baked goods she’s put together from her family’s kitchen in Nikiski.

They are the desserts and delicacies the Kenai Alternative High School senior has been preparing with her mother for her new business Boho Bakes, inspired by her experience from the Work Force Development cooking class taught by school teacher Susan Byrne.

“I am not good with paper and pencil artistically but I think that I could do some cool things with fondant and frosting,” Simms said.

The spunky, highly focused student has already drawn up her five-year plan for the company she continuously expands on between homework and family. Right now she has been using word of mouth and recommendations from friends to promote her regular, gluten-free and vegan products.

Simms usually sits down for a consultation with her next client to figure out a budget, dietary preferences, allergies and vision for the end product, and tries to keep everything as affordable as possible. In the few months she has been in operation, she has carried out a variety of styles including a giant blue octopus and naked red velvet cake.

Simms said she has found out oftentimes the learning process can be a challenge.

There is often a moment where she panics and thinks, “This is going to be , this is not what I envisioned, then it all comes together,” she said.

Her new passion did not come out of nowhere.

When Simms was younger, she dreamed of starting her own bistro. After bouncing between an interest in psychology and culinary arts, Byrne’s class became the catalyst for a more steadfast decision.

Byrne has been teaching the cooking course biannually for a few years, and annually for the past five. She is one of the school district’s longest working employees, having been staffed at different sites for the past 37 years. For 23 of those, she has taught home economics.

Byrne said she sees her role as helping her students learn their way around the kitchen, but also the logistics of feeding oneself or a family. She helps them understanding budgeting for groceries and purchasing nutritious ingredients and how use them in healthy homemade meals.

At the end of every rotation, of which there are five in one Kenai Alternative school calendar, each student picks a dish to present in one cumulative and collective class feast. Friends and family are also invited to share in the festivities and Byrne makes sure she is the only one standing and cleaning for the duration.

“They do a stunning job,” she said.

Simms said she fought and fought to make sure she would be the one cooking the tiramisu for dessert, and then, laughing, proceeded to make it all wrong.

However, she is one of the most studious pupils who have taken the course far beyond what was expected inside the classroom, Byrne said.

“She is a go-getter,” said school Principal Loren Reese. “She came into the building and set goals and was exceptional at it.”

Both Byrne and Reese said however unexpected Simms’ enthusiasm is, it is exactly what they hope their students will get out of the course.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Work Force Development Program, headed by Work Experience and Work Force Coordinator Matt Widaman, offers the most hands-on, direct career experience any student will have the chance to get during their high school years. Throughout the school district Widaman brings shop, career and technical education courses, culinary arts and even medical work options to students before they have graduated.

Byrne said taking classes where they can get actual work experience prepares students far more than if they were thrown out into the world after school without any knowledge even of what they don’t like. Reese said it also gives them a chance to get certificates, such as the food handlers permits they must get through Byrne’s cooking class, for free.

“The world of work is where we want them to go, you know, or the world of education, whichever they want to experience,” Reese said.

Reach Kelly Sullivan at

More in News

Alaska Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer speaks during a press conference announcing the administration’s push for changes to the state’s election system on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Kevin Goodman, State of Alaska)
Just 2 Alaska lieutenant governor candidates say 2020 presidential vote was fair

Alaska’s lieutenant governor will oversee the 2024 presidential election

Kenai Peninsula School District Superintendent Clayton Holland stand near the entrance to the district’s Soldotna offices on Thursday, March 17, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Academics, staff recruitment among district priorities for upcoming school year

The superintendent is ready to see KPBSD return to the district’s pre-COVID-19 academic performance

Raymond Bradbury preserves his salmon while dipnetting in the mouth of the Kenai River on Saturday, July 10, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion file)
Personal use harvest reports due Monday

Northern Kenai fishing report

Evelyn Cooley competes in the barrel race at the Kenai Peninsula Fair on Aug. 12, 2022, in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Music, magic, daredevils and pigs

Kenai Peninsula Fair brings an assortment of activities to Ninilchik

Signs direct voters at the Kenai No. 3 precinct on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion file)
Signs direct voters at the Kenai No. 3 precinct for Election Day on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Local candidates report support from state PACs

Labor unions and the National Education Association are among the groups putting money into Kenai Peninsula state election races

Signs and examples on the recycling super sack at the Cook Inletkeeper Community Action Studio show which plastics are desired as part of the project in Soldotna, Alaska, on Aug. 11, 2022. Plastics from types 1, 2, 4 and 5 can be deposited.(Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Local nonprofit accepting plastics for synthetic lumber project

The super sack receptacles can be found on either side of Soldotna

This July 28, 2022, photo shows drag queen Dela Rosa performing in a mock election at Cafecito Bonito in Anchorage, Alaska, where people ranked the performances by drag performers. Several organizations are using different methods to teach Alaskans about ranked choice voting, which will be used in the upcoming special U.S. House election. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Groups get creative to help Alaska voters with ranked voting

Organizations have gotten creative in trying to help voters understand how to cast their ballot, as the mock election featuring drag performers shows

A school bus outside of Kenai Central High School advertises driver positions on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Staff shortage, gas prices change school bus routes

The changes do not apply to the district’s special education students

The cast of “Tarzan” rides the Triumvirate Theatre float during the Independence Day parade in downtown Kenai, Alaska on Monday, July 4, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
The show goes on as Triumvirate seeks funding for new theater

The troupe has staged shows and events and is looking to debut a documentary as it raise funds for new playhouse

Most Read