College students often flip over homework assignments, deadlines, work and daily dramas. But self-taught pastry chef Jonathan Melendez, the Bake Monster, has all that and more on his plate, so to speak. He’s an entrepreneur who shares his passion of love and baked goods with those close to him.

The Bake Monster has been in business for about two years now, but only recently has he expanded by adding a Web site – which he manages himself. With the added pressures of average college life, he has to cook, ship and promote his own products. Does he sleep?

“Hardly,” is his honest reply.

Right now, the Bake Monster has a menu of cookies, cupcakes, loaves, muffins, scones, cakes, pies and squares, with delicacies by request. Other products popular for Melendez are gift baskets and corporate gifts like cookie packages and cookie mugs. Each order is customizable to fit the customer’s needs, Melendez assures.

So if business is running smoothly (and by smoothly, I mean stressful for this one-man show), why even bother with a formal college education? Melendez takes pride in getting his degree.

“I’ve always wanted to go to college. It is a priority,” he says, adding, “It is something concrete to have, this piece of paper. I already know I want to do this for the rest of my life.”

Melendez is studying photography at California State University, Northridge. However, his degree is proving to be more beneficial than most would think. He photographs everything he makes, stating, “The way you display something induces people to buy it.”

Most of the stuff Melendez knows, he learned by the seat of his pants. Yes, he did go to culinary school, but dropped out after a semester.

“I thought it was constraining,” he says. “I don’t like being told what to do.”

What better way to stick it to the man than to do things your own way, and do them well? There, he thought up the idea to become the Bake Monster. Though not going through a culinary program has its benefits (yay, individuality!), it also put a slight snag in Melendez’s stride.

“I’m all self-taught, but since I’m not classically trained, sometimes I just have to keep trying until I get it right,” he says. “In my free time [what free time?], I watch the Food Network – I love it. I also like to read cookbooks. Every now and then I find something I like, and I try to find a way to make it my own. Like, I’ll add an extra ingredient or switch it up somehow.”

For example, let’s take the basic pumpkin pie, really popular around the holidays, right? Melendez thought it would be a good idea to take this Thanksgiving staple and turn it into a cupcake.

“It has all the classic features of a pumpkin pie, just, in a cupcake. I go crazy with pumpkin.”

He adds that he has also tried making chocolate chip pumpkin cookies, but “people are a little standoffish … until they try it. Then they love it.”

So running around greater Los Angeles, spending more time in a kitchen than at home, one wonders how a 21-year-old can handle it. Well, with the support of a good family.

“My parents are proud. My mom always told us to do something we really love, and I love this.”

Melendez started cooking at age 13, but got his first baking experience through a job shadow program called Careers in Culinary Arts Program that his high school offered. There he was offered a job at Porto’s Bakery and worked his way up to cake decorating, which he claims was his favorite part.

“It was the most fun, the most creative part of it,” he says.

Since then his family has been very supportive of his passion.

“They are great, they will always be encouraging,” he says with a grin.

I guess with a support system like his, it is a little easier to avoid going crazy.

Through word of mouth popularity, his chocolate cake has quickly become a customer favorite: “I can do it in my sleep.”

He also adds that cake decorating is still his favorite part. He can make a cake look like just about anything. Personally, I recommend the chocolate chip cherry scones; they are bigger than the ones you’d find in coffee shops and have a thicker consistency matched with sweet chocolate and contrasting tart dried cherries. Yum.

For more information, visit