Pastry chef Tracy Renaud handles every flower with care, meticulously designing them for her cakes.
It's hard to believe when you see the beautiful cakes she creates, but the 31-year-old at Connecticut Culinary Institute is legally blind.
”Whenever we are doing a cake or piping on it, we are making sure everything is straight and it’s easier for us to stand back and take a look at it and see that it is straight and for her she needs help,” said Michelle Wise, 19, of Hartford, who works with Renaud.
"If I can’t see something, I will ask to borrow somebody’s eyes because mine don't work so I figure I will utilize the other sets that do work,” Renaud, of New Britain, said.
Two years ago, Renaud started getting bad headaches and doctors later discovered the problem.
“There was a blood clot in the veins on top of my brain and that was creating increased pressure on my optic nerves,” Renaud said.
She was diagnosed with a rare condition called cavernous sinus thrombosis. Of those who have it, 80 percent do not survive. But, Renaud has beaten the odds and is now pursuing her dreams under teacher and chef Jamie Roraback.
“In the culinary arts, we are always taught that the sense of sight is important. Smell, however, is very important, touch, feel. She can do things sometimes that maybe we take for granted in a lot of respects,” Roraback said.
Tracy has the most important ingredient of all when it comes to baking -- a good attitude, Roraback said.
And that sunny disposition is contagious in the kitchen.
"She is a fun-loving person and I think what she is doing is wonderful,” Wise said.
“I don't want to spend the rest of my life sitting in my house going, poor me, what if. I have a problem. I have a disability, but it doesn't mean I still don't have abilities,” Renaud said.