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From Barnes & Noble
How She Got to Be a Sweet Baker
Almost every winter weekend my family migrated from the suburbs of New York City to the Hunter Mountain ski area in the nearby Catskills. Because Hunter is one of the best ski areas within a reasonable distance from the city, a substantial number of chefs from some of the best restaurants came up on weekends after closing down their restaurants. Ben, my husband, got to meet and know many of the chefs on the ski slopes. I didn't ski and was very interested in becoming a pastry chef, so one day on the mountain Ben asked chef Andre Soltner [proprietor of the famous restaurant Lutece] where I should take lessons. Andre mentioned a retired pastry chef in the area named George Keller, who had worked in some of New York's best restaurants, and suggested that he might give lessons. George agreed to take me on as a pupil, and I learned quickly and soon became close friends with both George and his wife, Lisa. Before long, I was supplying five restaurants in the general Hunter area with their dessert tables every weekend.
Later on, I was told by a dear friend, William Greenberg Jr., who operated four bake shops in Manhattan, that his bakeries were frequently approached by customers seeking romantic, floral wedding cakes. This was not his specialty, and he knew of my passion and accomplishments as a pastry chef, so he asked me if I had any interest in the work. It sounded like a wonderful opportunity, so I began taking lessons on how to create ornate, decorative cakes.
My real business breakthrough came as the result of a wedding cake I created for a daughter's friend who was getting married. The young woman operated a takeout food shop in the Chelsea area of New York City. The cake was delivered on Saturday for the Sunday wedding. The bride-to-be was so taken with the cake that, instead of placing it in the shop's refrigerator, she put it into the window on display. As luck would have it, passing by was a chef who worked for the then premier society caterer in New York City, Donald Bruce White. The chef asked where the cake came from, and I started getting orders for cakes each weekend from the caterer. Women who attended catered receptions learned who created the cakes and started ordering them, bringing them into some of New York City's best hotels. When the hotel banquet managers saw my cakes, they started ordering them directly, and my business blossomed.
I believe that one of the main reasons for my success is that I don't take shortcuts when it comes to fulfilling my clients' wishes. My cakes are made using only the best available ingredients. The majority of my orders are for wedding cakes, but I create cakes for all special occasions. The biggest reward from my business is all the wonderful people I get to meet while they are preparing for a happy occasion. I have people from all walks of life as customers, including politicians, artists, royalty, actors, singers, conductors, musicians, directors, ballet stars, entrepreneurs, celebrated physicians, publishers, columnists, and clergymen.
I look upon my career as a creator of beautiful, special cakes as a reward for my diligence in fighting for my life when I was threatened by breast cancer years ago and underwent both a mastectomy and chemotherapy. I feel that conquering my illness brought about a change for the better in my life. So as much as I have received, I want to give in return. I have found that I can do that by sharing my energy -- not only by making scrumptious cakes -- but also by sharing the fruits of my labors, in both time and financial support, with others who are battling life-threatening diseases.