By: Andrew Connor
Leslie Milton (DSGN ’79) never saw herself on national TV sifting through trash cans and filthy kitchen counters to concoct vibrant macaron towers and delicate croquembouche.
But when her daughter, Emma, sent her an email with the subject line “IMPORTANT” and a casting notice for the FOX competition show Crime Scene Kitchen, the idea made sense: Emma was an actor and a self-taught baker, and Leslie an accomplished pastry chef with her own custom pastry business, Goodnight Kitchen, and an education from the French Pastry School in Chicago.
“[The show] was something I never even knew I wanted to do,” says Milton.
Milton had not always been a pastry chef. She only began her business in 2017, and attended pastry school the year prior. The decision to begin baking—professionally—came after years of work as a stay-at-home mother and as a graphic designer. After she graduated from the Institute of Design at Illinois Tech, she spent years at J.P. Morgan as a corporate graphic designer and eventually an executive, before leaving to raise Emma.
“There’s a bizarre but very solid relationship in the way a person thinks when they’re doing graphic design or baking,” says Milton. “There are rules, there are structures, and there are problems and solutions. I love that baking is more of a precise art, so it just appealed to me.”
Milton says, in a way, her ID education would come into play on Crime Scene Kitchen. The show’s conceit has contestants rifle through a messy kitchen to deduce what had been baked, then make it themselves; the most accurate and tastiest re-creation wins. When it came to analyzing clues, Milton was in familiar territory: “My mind really responds to solving problems, both aesthetically and through critical thinking. That’s what they taught us at ID,” she says.
The mother-daughter team made it to the final episode of Crime Scene Kitchen, and though they were the first to be eliminated in the finals, as far as Leslie is concerned, they made it all the way to the end.