Every one of us has someone we look up to. Sometimes it is the person from Food Network Challenge. Sometimes it is the author of your favorite cake books. Sometimes it is the person who routinely wins the top prize at cake shows. These people inspire us to do cakes, to be more than we are.
One of my friends was talking to my travel buddy Susan Carberry the other day about the first time she met Susan. She said “I was starstruck….no, cakestruck.”. I loved that term! She talked about how nice Susan was and how meeting her reinforced her image of Susan.
I remember the year at the Maryland Cake Show when Duff Goldman showed up. People were crawling all over themselves to get near him and take a picture with him. Someone decided to introduce him to Geraldine Randlesome from Creative Cutters. I remember that the person attempting the introduction was so disappointed because Duff didn’t know who Geraldine was and didn’t really care. Duff wasn’t attempting to be insulting…he did not know her or her contribution. We cannot expect everyone to have the same sugar heroes.
I know that my sugar heroes may not be yours. For me, it was never the television personalities. My two main heroes were JoEllen Simon and Cheri Elder. Why? They were the only two people I could find who could do whimsical cakes and elegant string work cakes equally well. They were (and are) the most well rounded decorators I have ever found. I have always aspired to be like them and made sure that I did not solely focus on one aspect of decorating.
Many of us forget that our sugar heroes are just like us. Many of the people you know from TV are some of the shyest people I know. I hear people comment that some of them are stuck up or arrogant because they don’t mingle with the masses at cake shows. The truth is that they are painfully shy and uncomfortable around people they do not know. Some of the TV folks are just as insecure about their work or appearance as you are. We all have demons. Admire them, but cut them some slack if they do not seem like you expect.
One of the things that I think sugar heroes forget is that people are always watching them. They are role models for the majority of decorators. I was at a show recently when a sugar hero to many got up and walked off when the challenge results were announced. Maybe they only had to go to the rest room, but the timing was terrible and gave everyone the impression that they were upset with the judges’ decision. I wonder if the person would have acted differently if they realized how many eyes were on them.
If you are a TV personality, author or well known sugar artist, remember that you have become role models for numerous cake decorators and sugar artists. Remember that posing for the picture, signing the apron or pausing to admire someone’s cake with them can make someone’s day. It is often the smallest gestures that mean the most. Don’t forget to congratulate people who beat you…even if you think you should have won. It is good sportsmanship. And maybe the person that beat you wants to hear a kind word from you even more than they wanted to win.
I would also like to note that just because someone has been on TV does not give them the right to act superior to everyone else. If your work is better than everyone else’s, your work will speak for itself. There is no reason to build yourself up by tearing others down. Luckily, I find this attitude to be the exception and remember that I saw this behavior in at least one person long before TV came their way. TV doesn’t change who people are…it just makes it easier to see the flaws and virtues of the people who go on the shows. I have been delighted to meet and become friends with many of the TV personalities and have to say that almost every one of them has been incredibly kind and quick to answer any question I had. They are supportive of the new decorators and treat everyone with respect.
I remember one night at a cake show when a big group of us went to eat. A newer decorator was in the group and kept going on and on about how it was the best night of her life. At first, I didn’t understand. Then I looked around and realized that the people I counted as my dear friends were sugar heroes to her. A night I would have taken for granted took on a new importance when I saw it through her eyes.
As with all things, we should strive to learn more about people worthy of our admiration. My suggestion is that you look through the ICES Hall of Fame list to see who you do not know. Go learn about these incredible people who paved the way for what we do every day. You just may find a new sugar hero.
If you see someone not on the ICES Hall of Fame list that you think should be there, nominate them! Your hero could inspire many others. So, who is your sugar hero and why?