Archive | February 2012

Fresh Baked Inspiration

Nadine Reibeling, Runner up on The Next Great Baker, Tells That’s SO Jenn about following her dreams, life after the show, her Twitter imposter and her upcoming role as a mother. She’s as sweet as the cakes she bakes.

What made you try out for The Next Great Baker? 

I love cake and the artistry of what draws people to the world of decorating.  I started out very young and I wanted to show that even though I was told it was a hobby growing up, I have run with it. It’s not only a hobby, but a career choice. I overheard someone mention that her parents wouldn’t let her go to culinary school even though it was what she wanted to do. That was a little frustrating to hear.  I believe that everyone should follow what they love to do. That’s where you find success.

You came so close to winning the whole show. What did it feel like to make it so far?

Nobody walks into something thinking they are going to lose, but when you are in the final two you just look around and thank your stars.  Getting that close to me was a culmination of every move I had made leading up to that point.  There is no way to explain that feeling.

During the finale, you were very emotional to see your mother there. What was that moment like for you?

To have Buddy facing me and my mom just over my shoulder was what it was all about.  It is very hard for me to put into words how close I am with her, but she put me in that first Wilton class at 13, so much credit goes to her.  Between her and her mom, my Grandma Bertha, I have good hearted and strong women in my life.  My grandma was who first put a rolling pin in my hand and taught me to fear nothing, but give everything a chance.  She always believed so much in me and a large part of being on the show was in her honor.  Unfortunately, she passed away right before I moved to attend Johnson & Wales in RI.  My mom saw my love in making cake and she continued to do all she could so I could pursue it.  She really had no idea where I would run with it, and I don’t think she ever thought she’d be in an audience watching me in a TV show.  I was so proud to have her share in that night.

How did it feel competing against your good friend Marissa? You said you were glad it was someone who deserved it, rather than regretting losing to someone you didn’t feel was talented.

Fortunately my ally was also my final competition, Marissa.  It’s fortunate because to be at the end with someone you consider a friend makes it that much more enjoyable. It’s going to be fun to see her on Cake Boss!

How did you feel when you didn’t hear your name? Marissa said you had to tape two endings to throw off the audience. What was that like for you to fake the win?

My initial thought was genuine happiness for Marissa and wanting to congratulate her.  To fake the win was a little tough.  My mom didn’t know I hadn’t won at that point so having to break that to her wasn’t much fun. I made it to the finale. I spent 10 weeks with Buddy and the Valastro family, met amazing people along the way and had my mom with me in the end.  It was a win no matter how I looked at it.

Your final cake reflected your different dreams on various tiers designed to look like clouds. Did your vision come to fruition how you imagined?

Concept wise, I really liked the cake.  Have I re-designed that cake in my head?  Many times. When you are up for so many hours, and mentally becoming exhausted, creativity doesn’t always work like flipping a switch.  You have to follow what you feel and I felt this concept was going to be good at telling my dreams.  I was glad to be able to represent what the competition meant to me, which is my constant reach for different goals. Plus, I got to show a little love for Minnesota.  There will be plenty more clouds to be added down the road. Goals are always changing and sometimes you have to change your path to get to them.  That doesn’t take away from the incredible journey along with way regardless of the outcome.

What did it feel like to see your journey mapped out on your finale cake. 

Mapping out my journey was a fun process!  I rarely look back collectively at the moves I have made and the decisions I’ve taken along the way.  To look back and piece the past 15 years of my life together was a sweet reminder of how things happen for a reason.  I couldn’t have imagined or dreamed up how things have taken their course, but I do know how grateful I am for each of those experiences.

What would your next tiers of clouds be if you did a cake today? 

Well, to start, I have a baby girl due in June!  From there it goes back to my goal from day one, to have my own shop in NYC.  If I inspire just one 13-year-old out there to start their decorating now, to hone that talent, that 10 weeks of complete craziness was worth every single second.

Congratulations, how exciting! You’ve already been a role-model to young viewers and now you’ll have a child of your own to inspire. What is it like to know you’re helping people reach their dreams?

This has been one of the most unexpected and best parts of being cast.  I am getting e-mail, letters, pictures and videos of aspiring cake artists that are saying they look up to me as a role model for following my heart at a young age, doing the best with my skills, and for following my dreams so far while keeping a level head.  I do have the fire and passion, but I don’t react to stress and pressure in the same way as some of my fellow contestants.  I work in NYC. I wouldn’t last working here if I didn’t have some steel in my veins.

Having been through this experience and knowing what you know now, what would you tell the 13-year-old Nadine if you could go back in time?

Keep going kid.  You can do this and you can make a career out of it.  You’re ahead of the curve to learn all this before some people are getting their first job. The world is your oyster.  It’s good to respect the opinions of others, but this is your life and you have it in you to do whatever you want.  You have much to look forward to. It’s going to be an amazing journey. Just keep practicing, stay humble and never forget those who have helped you along the way.  Everyone will teach you something whether in life or baking, remember the lessons you’re taught.

You mentioned wanting to teach in this field because you felt your teachers didn’t take you as seriously when you started out. How would your approach be different?

I’d start with the basics and go from there.  Some kids get frustrated when they don’t make that perfect rose on their first lesson.  I practiced over and over and over. It wouldn’t be much a craft if there wasn’t some form of dedication.  When my friends would be going out, I’d sometimes stay home because Wilton had just released a new cake book and I wanted to know the new designs. When I was learning to write with chocolate, I would pipe toothpaste.  It’s the same consistency and it doesn’t harden up.  The basics are the skeleton. Once you really know what you are doing you can start playing with creativity.  You have to be just as committed as a pianist is to playing the piano.  You walk before you run.

How do you feel the bakers challenges like cracking eggs and icing cupcakes under a time crunch were relevant to the competition? 

Time management is crucial to any successful business.  In kitchens I have worked in, eggs arrive in cartons and you weigh it out in grams.  I can’t say I crack a ton of eggs on a daily basis so I had no idea what to expect with that challenge time wise.  It’s not enough to know something. You have to do it at your fastest and consistently.  In professional kitchens I would have challenges against myself. If I could scoop 500 cookies in 30 minutes, next time I’d shoot for 25 minutes. Things like that.  If you don’t know your best time and quality you have no bar to set yourself against.  Your personal bar of standards should always be the highest.

You held your own running with bags of flour during the bakers challenge.

I am not a sporty person and relays have never been my strength.  I don’t play basketball, I’ll be the last picked on a volleyball team and I am A-OK with that.  In junior high I was the best cheerleader on the bench!  Today,  I’ll run a 5k here and there, but to carry 100lbs. in such an awkward form  just wasn’t quite working out.  Also, you don’t know what the challenges are going to be in advance.  Had I known what I would be doing that morning perhaps I would have changed my footwear to something other than flats.

If you could do the competition all over again, would you? What would you change, if anything?

I would do it in a heartbeat.  There really is no way to prepare yourself for the wrenches Buddy throws at you so I can’t say I’d change much.  In hindsight of course I would, but when you don’t know what to expect you can’t really prepare much besides your mind.  Then again, maybe I would have drunk a lot more coffee during the finale!

What was your relationship with the contestants during the show? Do you keep in touch with them?

My closest friend from the show is Marissa. Luckily, she is just across the Hudson from me.  I also keep in touch with Melo and Ryan. I really liked Heather M. as well, but she’s on the West Coast and has her own busy life so it’s not as easy to keep in touch. 

What were some of your favorite moments on the show?

Anytime I won a challenge was my favorite moment!  The first day and the last day were also moments that really meant a lot.  Walking on set the first day was something you don’t fully understand until you’re in the middle of it.  It feels like a whirlwind dream.  At the end, to be in the final two facing Buddy and looking back at my mom, was priceless.

What was your most favorite challenge?

The engineered cake.  I loved my team, I think in my eyes I had the dream team and our cake represented that.

Least favorite challenge?  

The bridezilla cake.  It wasn’t the skill of making the cake, it was the mind game of the bride and being made to double guess Melo.  When he was saying to use only triangles and no circles, and you look over and the other team is using circles, you question if Melo heard it all correctly.  We were all doubting our leaders. Even though I trusted Melo previously, this challenge was a mind game.  After that challenge it became a true competition, each for their own.  Up until that point it was talented people, working together, being friendly.

Tell me about this Twitter imposter!

So my Twitter name is @lollylovestory NOT @nadinereibeling. It appears I have someone out there that has been posing as me which I am getting taken care of right away.  Marissa was all excited to tell me she got me some followers, and I told her that wasn’t me. She and others had been following this version of “me” which claims I have a niece and was swearing at Marissa for catching them in the act.  If you know me, I don’t have a niece and I wouldn’t be caught swearing at Marissa on Twitter.  Sorry to my fans for the runaround on that. I was shocked.

What learning experience do you most take away from the show?

How to hit the restart button day after day.  You can’t take anything into a new challenge from the day before.  I work in events so for me I have been good about not losing my cool.  If  anything happens on a bride’s special day, I can’t lose my mind. I have to keep my focus on the remedy and the resolution.  I can only control what I can control. One of best biggest things I’ve taken away, aside from what happened during filming, was that anything is truly possible.  I never in a million years thought I could be cast on TV. Anything can happen.

What advice do you have for anyone just starting out in the field?

Practice.  Be humble.  Meet everyone and go to everything in this field. Every show. Any classes.  You can never learn too much.  Basically, everyone is an artist. There is inspiration in everything. While driving with Marissa I said, ‘Look at that building. That is a beautiful cake.’  I’ll wander in fabric stores just getting images in my mind.  Be an open canvas and a sponge.  Be open to everything and absorb all the knowledge you can.  There are so many people that have been doing this far longer than I have, and I admire them greatly.  Those older ladies in my first class pushed me to say, ‘Hey, I may be young, but I am going to do this. If anything, I’ll do it better because you don’t think I can at all.’

How has life changed for you since the show?

I have been busy as a bird, but it’s been good.  My goals are the same so it’s just a matter of sticking to my lists and checking things off until I get to my next cloud.

Tell me about what you’re doing now with Kimpton Hotels and Lolly Love.

Oh gosh, Jenn, how much time do you have? I work with Kimpton Hotels NYC in catering sales.  I focus on the special events within the hotel and get to work with the event from soup to nuts.  That includes the event design, creation of the menu, lighting and sound. It’s a great, creative job that allows for the daily face to face time with clients. Working in this position is what allowed me to keep my calm on the show.  You can’t lose control when you are planning a bride’s wedding. You have to be the calm, no matter what hurdle you face.  Lolly Love is where I create the little sister of New York’s cupcake craze, the cake lolly.  We only deliver in Manhattan right now, but we are hoping to start shipping soon and even better, a store front!

Where will you go from here?

I’ll get started teaching the recruits for Season 15!  Really though, I plan on spending some time between NYC and Minnesota. I’d like to be talking to others that want to get into this, teach classes, make cakes, lollies and cookies, and run events.  I am fortunate to have jobs that I really love to do and want to roll out of bed to get to.  Regardless of the outcome on the show, for anyone to do what they love to do it is a win.


Trial by Boil

I’m not a chef. I didn’t go to culinary school, and have had no formal training. One thing I am very skilled at? Eating. I’m a damn good eater. Professional, one might say. I’m also very adventurous with tasting new foods, and can order off a menu like it’s nobody’s business. Some people (Ehem, my husband) get their thrills from jumping out of a plane. Me? I like diving into a new plate of a food.

I was recently at Park Avenue Winter in NYC (review to come soon), and I was served langoustine (also known as a Dublin Bay prawn, Norway Lobster or scampi) on an open-faced sandwich. It was a twist on a lobster roll, and it was to die for.

Having had much interest in langoustine, I spoke with the founder of SOLEX Fine Foods who specializes in them, to learn more.

Now let’s back up a second. I was just given one week’s notice that I would be on TV for CT Style to create and present an Oscar party spread. We’re talking appetizers, a dip, a cocktail (Did I mention I’m also not a mixologist?) and dessert, with décor included.

In that one-week span, I was also speaking with the founder of SOLEX who happened to have gotten a delivery of fresh hearts of palm. As he and I had previously discussed, he was going to send it to me for a blog post.

When I mentioned  I was going to be on the show the following week, we decided to incorporate the hearts of palm into one of my appetizers for the segment. They arrived, basically in a tree bark, with no instructions. I had to fend for myself and secretly wondered exactly what I had gotten into.

Then, two days before my appearance, SOLEX said they were delivering a package of langoustine for me to cook with on the show.

They were arriving at my house the day before I appeared with them on live TV.

I admit, I was thrown off guard. Not only had I never cooked with langoustine, but I also had to come up with a recipe for them, and only had mere hours to do it.

I appreciated his trust in me, but had to be honest with my skill level in this department. I told him this was uncharted waters, and wanted to do his product justice. He told me I would be fine because it was just like cooking a lobster. This would have been a very helpful comparison had I ever boiled a lobster before.

Nonetheless, I complied. I felt enthralled to conquer this task, and didn’t want nerves to take over. When asked if I preferred the langoustines to be delivered live or frozen, I opted for frozen fearing our dog Mo would otherwise think we got him some new playmates. I assumed that meant it was frozen out of the shell. I was wrong. They were going to be delivered whole. Heads on.

Now, this meant my time was even more limited because I had to be sure they were defrosted before I experimented with them (and by experiment, I mean get it right on the first try because that’s all I had.)

I put the package on my counter to let the langoustines thaw out, and went out to do my remaining errands for the next day’s appearance. I returned a few hours later, mentally prepared to tackle this project.

When I walked into my kitchen, I noticed the langoustines were not where I had left them. They were frozen, so I knew they didn’t crawl away, and they were on a high counter so I couldn’t blame Mo.

I looked around the kitchen, on the dining room table, and even in the fridge. Nothing. So, I called my husband at work to ask him if he had any ideas and he replied, “You left them out on the counter so I put them in the freezer before I left so they wouldn’t go bad.”

My heart stopped. I truly appreciated the thought, but there was clearly a method to my madness. All those hours the langoustines were supposed to be defrosting were spent freezing up even more. I felt like I was on a reality show and this was the plot point where someone was trying to ensue drama to get viewers coming back.

I took a deep breath and removed my little friends from the freezer to defrost a few more hours before running them under cold water. It was now 5pm. I had to be on set early the next morning. I boiled a pot of water and said a prayer.

The langoustines watched me with hope in their eyes. They were chanting, “You can do it Jenn!” It was quiet, but I still heard it.

I opened the little guys from their package, and put them in the hot tub. They soaked for about 8 minutes, per advice I was given. I then took them out of their bath and placed them on my cutting board. Thanks to YouTube, I learned how to separate the head from the tail (and clean out the yucky digestive track). At first I was hesitant, wishing I had a pair of gloves to protect me from these creatures. Then, I started to get the hang of it, and was actually having fun with it. I was doing it!

Then, came the best part. The tasting. The fresh, succulent, sweet langoustine meat practically melted on my tongue. I closed my eyes and smiled. I did that.

I drizzled the juicy langoustine meat with some of SOLEX’s Valderrama olive oil (Which I seriously put on everything now), a little lemon juice and salt and pepper. Then, I mixed in some fresh mango and avocado.

I spooned the mixture into a hollowed out boat of tender hearts of palm and took a bite. Wow.

In that moment I felt glorified. Not just for succeeding, but for trying in the first place. I had just set the bar higher for myself, and realized there was a reason SOLEX had faith in me to figure this out. It was because I could.

And now? Well, I’m still not a chef and I have no plans to attend culinary school. I’m not quite an expert, but do you know what I can proudly say I am? A little more experienced.

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