Showing posts with label competition. Show all posts
Showing posts with label competition. Show all posts

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Local Cake Artist Hoping For National Attention

(Aug. 20, 2010) Amber Markov has found her calling and it’s a piece of cake. Rather, it’s designing and decorating cakes and doing so well at it that Markov, who describes herself as a “cake artist,” is in the running for a spot on a new baking competition television series created by the producers of TLC’s “Cake Boss.”

The producers are looking for a “natural born baker or artist” who can create “amazing masterpieces, crazy confections or over-the-top cakes,” like master baker Buddy Valastro (aka the “Cake Boss”) and his team, which includes his mother, four older sisters and three brothers-in-law, do at Carlo’s City Hall Bake Shop in Hoboken, N.J.

When Rebecca Carbaugh, Markov’s manager at the Original Smith Island Cake Company shop in the Ocean City Factory Outlets, was on the Internet one day, she came across the contest Web site.

She noted that producers are casting up-and-coming cake decorators and bakers looking for their big break and who have the right personality for television.

Right away Carbaugh thought of Markov, so she sent an e-mail for more information about the competition and to praise her employee.

Markov filled out an application and provided some photographs of her cakes. Casting directors liked her answers and pictures, she said, so the next step was to post videos on YouTube. She finished the application process about two weeks ago and is awaiting a response.

The baking competition series, with host Valastro and his team, will feature weekly lessons, challenges and eliminations. The 10 contenders chosen for the show, set to film in September and October, will vie for cash and prizes. No culinary experience is required.

“I’m anxious and excited, but the odds are hard because they’re only picking 10 people,” she said. “I would freak out if I was chosen. It would be awesome. It would be a really big opportunity for me.”

Markov, who moved to Ocean City when she was about 3 years old, was big into music and singing, but then turned toward massage therapy, which she did at a local day spa for two and a half years.

Markov said she always watched shows such as “Ace of Cakes” and videos on YouTube and thought, “I bet I can do that.”

She got the opportunity to test her skills for the first time about three years ago when she designed a hot dog cake for her boyfriend’s son’s seventh birthday.

“It came out really good,” said Markov and that is how her career as a cake artist began. After her first creation, she continued to make unique cakes for friends and family.

“I kept trying different things and taught myself,” she said. “You kind of have to teach yourself because all cakes are different.”

When the Original Smith Island Cake Company store, featuring the official dessert of Maryland containing between 6 to 12 layers, was set to open last May in West Ocean City, Markov dropped off her specialty cakes portfolio. She has worked there since then.

Markov designs many wedding and specialty cakes, which depending on their size and the amount of detail, takes her between five and 15 hours to complete. Some of the cakes she has made include a sandcastle, one based on a woman’s ring, lighthouse cake topper, bushel of crabs, Sponge Bob and a marlin.

Her favorite was a crab that consisted of nine layers of yellow cake with chocolate icing that she made for a crab feast in Bishopville last month. Carbaugh had just planned to bring some cupcakes and Smith Island cakes but Markov said, “Let’s show off a little bit and do something crazy.”

“Everyone thought it was foam because it didn’t look real so I had to write, ‘This is a real cake,’“ Carbaugh said. “No one wanted to cut into it because they liked it so much...Amber has learned very quickly and she’s definitely come a long way. It’s so cool to see the stuff she sketches out on paper come to life in a cake.”

The 27-year-old Ocean Pines resident said she loves to see people’s reactions when they get the first glimpse of the cake she created for their special occasion. She said it is nice to be part of someone’s special day.

Markov said she likes that her job doesn’t feel like work.

“It’s fun and it allows me to be creative,” she said. “I just want to gain all the experience and knowledge I can and see where it takes me.”

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Nandua High Recycles Plastic Bags and Gets A New Bench

Students, staffers, classes and clubs at Nandua High School collected 152,145 plastic grocery bags to earn a new Trex wood-alternative bench.

ONLEY -- Three years ago, social studies teacher Casey Davis provided the impetus to start recycling at Nandua High School.

Today, 152,145 plastic grocery bags later, the school now proudly displays a bench made of recycled plastic and sawdust -- the award given to the Accomack County school that collected the most bags between Oct. 1, 2009, and Earth Day, April 22.

The program was launched by Trex, the country's largest manufacturer of wood-alternative decking, and Food Lion. Bags collected at the school were taken to Food Lion, where they were collected and moved to Trex's location in Winchester.

"I've been nicknamed the 'bag lady' at Food Lion," teacher Susan Wilder joked.

Wilder played a key role in starting the bag collection program at Nandua, and her class -- the program's "Grand Central Station" -- was essential in counting and tallying the bags collected by the school.

"She was instrumental," said English teacher Kathy Evans.

The plastic bag recycling program was launched in addition to the school's Hi-Y and Tri-Hi-Y recycling program, "because the convenience center didn't take plastic bags," Wilder said.

To provide incentive to recycle bags, Nandua initiated a school-wide competition among all first-block classes. At the end of each month, the class that collected the most bags was given a doughnut party, and the winner at the end of the semester held a pizza party.

Evans' AP English class won the competition.

"It was amazing how much fun we had with the bags. Once it was finished, the kids just wanted to continue with it," she said of her students.

Every Tuesday, Evans' class joins George Boggs and the Hi-Y and Tri-Hi-Y clubs for a school-wide collection of recyclables. The bags used to collect the recyclables are emptied and put in the bins provided by Trex.

Since Nandua's recycling initiative began, it has expanded to almost every classroom. Just a month ago, Nandua got a receptacle for its recyclables so students no longer have to load them onto the back of Boggs' truck.

The bench, which is made of 4,500 plastic bags, will eventually be placed outside to replace an older, broken-down bench.