“I have a dream to open an authentic 50s diner pie shop. It would focus on big slices of homemade pies, old-fashioned malts, and old-fashioned burgers and fries. I want to call it ‘The Sock Hop Pie Shop.’” – Shyla Underwood, US Food Scholars Recipient

Two Austin Community College District Culinary Arts students have been selected for the prestigious US Foods Scholars Program.

Shyla Underwood, U.S. Food Scholars Recipient

Shyla Underwood and Emily Backus will both receive a $10,000 scholarship as part of the program.

Only 12 students nationwide were selected for the program. 

“Being awarded this scholarship was honestly breathtaking. I was in complete shock, It really took a few days to feel real and sink in. In addition to the scholarship money, it opens up a huge world of networking opportunities and people meeting.”

Shyla was on a different track before switching to a degree in Culinary Arts and Pastry in the spring of 2022. 

“I live in Seguin. I know it is a long drive and out-of-district, but after I toured the Culinary Department, I got a good vibe from the program. The faculty made me feel at home so I decided that ACC was the place for me.” 

As a child, Emily loved the kitchen – and says she often got into trouble for using the kitchen by herself. In her senior year of high school, she dreamed of joining a culinary program, but put her dream on pause to pursue soccer and an accounting career. Years later, she decided to pursue her passions and enrolled at ACC in the Culinary Arts program.

“Being a US Foods® Scholar is helping me pursue my vision to operate my own food establishment,” says Emily. “I’m not only getting financial support, but I’m learning a lot about the industry like practical, approachable ways to incorporate sustainability in our day-to-day practices.”

ACC’s Culinary Arts program is led by a faculty of expert chefs. The college offers an Associate of Applied Science: Baking and Pastry and an Associate of Applied Science: Culinary Arts at the ACC Highland Campus. 

To learn more about the Culinary Arts program, visit austincc.edu/culinary


Favorite dish: “Definitely apple pie. I love making my own dough and the amazing smell of hot fresh apple pie. Any kind of pie is right up my alley, though. Corn casserole would be my favorite savory dish, though, because my mom taught me to make it, and it’s a huge family favorite.”

Most memorable moment in the kitchen: “My most memorable moment in the kitchen would be when my teenage son and I worked together on a blueberry and cream coffee Bundt cake for a 4-H competition. Teaching my kids about how to make different things is so special to me.”

Career goals and aspirations: “My short-term goals are to get connected with local chefs to learn from them and gain as much experience as possible. My long-term goals are to open up a 50s style diner pie shop, where people can come and have a slice of pie and a cup of coffee – and then maybe a high tea room, and serve pastries and finger sandwiches with tea. I’d also like to get into the wedding cake industry because I feel like having the perfect wedding cake means so much to a bride. I know it did for me.”


Favorite ingredient: “Stock from scratch. From soups to sauces to braises, I enjoy the process of being able to utilize most parts of the plant or animal – and turn what some people may throw away into delicious flavors in the dishes I make.”

Most memorable moment in the kitchen: ”I would make pies for Game of Thrones watch parties and design top crusts with House crests. Then I started making portraits of characters, starting with the Night King. I probably made every mistake you could make with pie, but I learned so much about the science of crust and developed a layering technique to create dragons and other characters on the show.”

What it means to be a US Foods Scholar: “It’s difficult being in the middle of another career and having regrets about not pursuing your passion from the beginning. It’s humbling to receive such an award, and it gives me hope that I’m doing the right thing by staying the course. It’s allowing me to unlock opportunities I had only dreamed of.”