By Tiffany Merlo Phelps
Stephanie Marciani traces her love of baking back to middle school when she would help her Aunt Mary bake Christmas cookies in Connecticut. At that time, the Food Network did not exist and food industry jobs were not as popular, so Marciani never considered that as a career path — at least not right away. Instead, Marciani earned her television/radio/film degree from Syracuse University in 2001 and worked publicity first in Los Angeles for one year and then in New York City another four years in the music industry. While she enjoyed that job, Marciani knew in 2006 that it was time to pursue her passion and enroll at the Institute of Culinary Education night program in New York City. She worked during the day at the Whole Foods in Union Square. After earning her Pastry Degree, Marciani worked at the Union Square Café. Next, she moved to North Carolina and became the head baker at the Edible Art Bakery & Cake Shop in Charlotte. She discovered her true niche here — custom desserts. Five years ago, Marciani, her husband and their two boys moved to Ponte Vedra Beach and “Pastry Steph,” her home baking business, was born with plans for expansion on the horizon.
Q: What do you like about baking?
A: I like trying new and different things all the time. I love when people bring me new ideas for a custom cake. I am very good at seeing what people show me and then replicating it. The real reward is being creative and working with people and ultimately making any event — small or large — very special. The cake is a good centerpiece for the person and creates a time to focus on that person.
Q: What was it like to be the head baker at the Edible Art Cake Shop?
A: I was responsible for baking all of the cakes and cookies. From there, the talented staff of cake artists would take over and create their beautiful designs. I was able to learn a lot just by watching their techniques. I was also able to help with customer service and really enjoyed brainstorming with clients to come up with the cake of their dreams. Edible Art is well known in the Charlotte/Myers Park area, and we were frequently commissioned with making cakes for NASCAR drivers, Michael Jordan, and Carolina Panther players.
Q: Did you have any interesting experiences with celebrities working as a music industry publicist?
A: Working in entertainment PR, I focused mostly on tour press. When an artist was touring, I was responsible for reaching out to national and local television and print press in the touring markets to get event exposure. I did this first for a small boutique PR firm (Brookes & Company, with Public Enemy as their most notable client), an indie record label (Razor & Tie, widely known as the creators and distributors of Kidz Bop!) and then finished up my PR career at a national firm called Rogers & Cowan, where I worked on tour press for Bryan Adams and also assisted my boss with her clients (Christie Brinkley, Elton John, and The Rolling Stones).
Q: Describe working at the Union Square Cafe and the Whole Foods in Union Square?
A: Union Square Cafe (the original location) was in an older building and had a small pastry kitchen area where three of us would squeeze together to get our work done for the day. We would produce the desserts and bread for the week and plate them for the lunch and dinner service. It was exciting during the dessert rush to get them prepped and plated and trying to beat the clock, all while making it look pretty and not messy. The kitchen at Whole Foods was completely different. It was large and brand new, with walk-in ovens and plenty of room for the bakery production staff to work on their daily tasks. As production manager, I was responsible for making sure the production team had made enough baked goods. At the time, it was the largest grossing Whole Foods Bakery. Through all of my jobs, I have learned that I most enjoy continuously learning new techniques and challenging myself.
Q: Name an interesting cake you have made.
A: I was asked to create a two-tier pirate cake with a pirate ship on top and a toy sword through the middle of the cake. It was my first time putting a sword through a cake, but it worked.
Photo courtesy Stephanie Marciani