CAT North baking and pastry teacher Peter Akerboom prepares students for the real world

The action is non-stop in the kitchen at the Center of Applied Technology in Severn, also known as CAT-North.

They're rolling dough, making pastries, icing cakes and, with every step, Peter Akerboom is by his students' side.

"I don't let them settle for anything they can do that they can do better," said Akerboom. "All I want them to be is the best that they can."

Akerboom started his baking career with the Marines in Hawaii, worked in Las Vegas for a bit, then came here to Baltimore. He worked at several well-known places like Le Fontaine Bleau and Haussner's. He was about to go back to Vegas when a part-time position came available at CAT-North.

That position turned into a 25-year career for Akerbook at CAT-North.

"Its been a lot of fun, its something that I've been able to keep my hands in what I love doing as far as pastry," he said.

His teaching style is described as firm but fair. Much of what he learned in the Marines, he uses in the kitchen.

'There's an old saying in the Marines 'Its better to sweat in boot camp then bleed in the battle field' and this is their boot camp here."

"Its reality 101 and I say always say if you can get through me, you'll be fine on the outside."

His tough love approach is appreciated by his former students, like Lauren King, who works at Sweet Hearts Patisserie in Annapolis.

"He's strict but in the sense of he just wants you to the best you can do, because he knows what you're capable of," she said.

The lessons go beyond proper icing techniques. Akerboom treats his students like professionals and prepares them for whatever they may encounter both in and out of the bake shop.

"Even if they don't decide to stay in baking, he still has given them the skills and the ability to be leaders, to take care of themselves and to be functioning adults," said Jacqueline Mearman, a former student of Akerboom's who works as the pastry sous chef at the Four Season's Hotel in Baltimore.

He has no plans to stop teaching and says the daily rewards he gets from his students, both past and present, is what keeps him going.

"I have the opportunity to put a thumb print on these young people's lives," Akerboom said. "I enjoy doing what I'm doing, I enjoy having them come back and I love watching them be successful."