LTC. Kevin Zurmuehlen (Ret.)
United States Army
For many years, Kevin Zurmuehlen has had three things coursing through his blood- the military, his faith, and frosting.
Born in Royal Oak, MI, Zurmuehlen received aBS in Management and Systems Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point and received his commission as a Second Lieutenant of Aviation in May 1990. After garnering an MBA from Kansas State University and a Master of Divinity from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, VA, he attended the Pastry Arts Degree Program at the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder, CO, and became a certified pastry chef.
While in the military, Zurmuehlenparticipated in the Aviation Officer Basic Course, the Initial Entry Rotary Wing Course, the Maintenance Officer/Maintenance Test Pilot Course, the Combined Logistics Officer Advanced Course, the U.S. Army Command and Staff Services School, and the Command and General Staff College. He served as a maintenance test pilot, executive officer and company/detachment commander in both the United States and the Republic of Korea, and had acquisition assignments in such places as Washington, DC, Fort Hood, TX, Baghdad, Iraq. His awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the National Defense Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the Meritorious Volunteer Service Medalthe Army Superior Unit Award and the Commander’s Award for Civilian Service. As an Army Civilian Senior Leader, Zurmuehlen served in Huntsville as the Director of the US Army Acquisition Center of Excellence (AACoE). Now, he has found a way to combine his business acumen, desire to serve others, and love of good food byopeningL’Etoile Patisseriein Huntsville, AL.
What does your company do?
We are a locally-owned and operated French Bakery and Cafe. L’Etoile Patisserieexists to glorify God by developing and strengthening our community through relationships while providing exceptional service and distinctive, high-quality artisan baked goods.
What promoted you to launch it?
We love food and the community it fosters. We have sampled some of the greatest cuisine our world has to offer, but we absolutely fell in love with the warmth, comfort and style of French pastries and breads. We want our customers to experience that same warmth, comfort and style when they bless us by visiting L’Etoile Patisserie.
I got the idea to start baking after watching the Great British Bake Off show. I like trying new things, gathering new skills – I thought I would give it a try. So, I started baking small projects in my home kitchen, steadily increasing the scope and complexity of each project and started having success. I was accepted into the August Escoffier School of Culinary Arts and completed certification in the Pastry Arts program.
How has your military life educated and influenced your business life?
Starting a small business requires a lot of work, patience, diligence, inquisitiveness, and desire – all things that the Army instills in its members in order to achieve mission success. My ability to create, develop and operate a small business is a direct result of the skills I learned while in service.
What do you hope to do with your business?
We want to be a fixture in the Huntsville community with a reputation for providing both a pleasurable experience and high-quality, artisan baked goods. For me personally, the best thing about our effort is the fact that my family and I are working it as a team – my wife, Kristen, runs front of house, my daughter, Katy, is my sous chef in the kitchen, and my son, Kyle, is the business manager for the enterprise. I want to leave a legacy with my now grown children – this bakery allows that in both financial terms and in family relationship terms.
What advice would you give other Veterans looking to own a business?
Don’t start a business to make money. Start a business to follow your passion! The money will come as a result of your passion – your customers will pick up on your passion and will desire to buy your product as a result.
What is the most important thing you want people to know about Veterans?
Veterans know the value of teamwork and are often willing to place the needs of the many above their own. We are capable!
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