I originally became interested in the food industry during my last year of college at Marquette. I became fascinated with the juxtaposition of high end wedding cakes. Inside, the cake is basically all math and science - exact proportions, moisture and heat causing chemical reactions. But the outside is a blank canvas and that's where the creativity lives.
I started pastry school 4 years after graduating from Marquette. I was working in the advertising industry, so I attended school on the nights and weekends when I was done with work. When I graduated from school, I got a job right away at a longstanding Chicago bakery in a cool neighborhood with artsy clientele. They wanted cakes that looked as amazing as they tasted, and I learned a lot about decorating and design from my dear friend and mentor, Milette Raz. She taught me way more than I learned in pastry school. She taught design, finesse, how to create muscle memory for certain movements like piping icing to duplicate shapes. Some years later, she had opened her own shop and we teamed up to compete and win Food Network's Cupcake Wars. It felt great to win the recognition for her bakery since she had done so much for me and my career.
I worked in bakeries for about 4 years total before taking a job in the test kitchens for Wilton, a large baking and cake decorating company. It was a perfect blend of marketing and baking and I did a lot of amazing things during my 8 years there. I became a company spokesperson, appearing in many television segments and online videos, developed dozens of recipes, executed curriculum for online baking courses, and ultimately managed the entire content development team of 12 people. By that time I wasn't doing much hands on baking or cooking anymore, and I missed it. I struck out on my own as a food stylist, recipe developer, culinary content creator, and spokesperson in July 2017. What does that mean? I make food look it's most delicious for photo and video shoots, I develop recipes for brands to help sell more of their products, I produce photo and video shoots for social media, and I am very comfortable promoting products on camera.
I have a lot of diverse projects, and I am enjoying working for myself. Some of my clients include Affy Tapple, Butterball, Weber Grills, Crate and Barrel, and McDonald's. A fellow baker from Wilton introduced me to Icing Smiles and I immediately felt aligned with their mission. They provide celebration cakes to kids with critical illnesses, as well as their siblings. When you find a way to use your particular skills to bring a little joy to someone who needs it, it's special. It's a wonderful feeling. I'm honestly honored to be able to do it.
This cake is on its way to a special little guy who is spending his first birthday with his family at Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago. His name is Max, and just like his namesake in Where the Wild Things Are, he is fearless. How amazing and honoring is it that I get to be a small part of creating a memory for Max's family? I'm one of hundreds of bakers across the country, known as Sugar Angels, for Icing Smiles, Inc. It's an amazing cause that's close to my heart, so I'd like to share its mission with you. Icing Smiles is a nonprofit organization that provides custom celebration cakes to families impacted by the critical illness of a child. We understand that the simple things, like a birthday cake, are luxuries to a family battling illness. Our goal is to create a custom cake for the ill child, or their sibling, that provides a temporary escape from worry and creates a positive memory during a difficult time.