Photo: Courtesy of TLC
Congratulations to Next Great Baker winner Marissa Lopez, the season two champion of TLC's reality-TV show. Thirteen aspiring bakers competed for a grand prize that included $100,000, an apprenticeship with Buddy (the Cake Boss himself), and a spread in the June issue of BRIDES magazine. Contestants Marissa Lopez (from New Jersey) and runner-up Nadine Reibeling (originally from Minnesota) were left to battle it out in the last challenge.
If you missed any of the action, here's a video from the challenge that took place in the BRIDES fashion closet. (We may be biased, but we think it was the best one!) You can also find out more information about the three dresses featured in that episode—vintage romance, fantasy princess, and Hollywood glam—if you're still shopping for a gown.
Thanks to our Facebook fans for chiming in with some questions they wanted to ask her.
Q & A with Marissa Lopez:
Who are your inspirations?
As many of you might know from the show, I wasn't the best student in high school and didn't know what I wanted to do with my future. What I did love to do was bake. My mother was a big inspiration for that. Then, in high school, my home-ec teacher inspired me to make my hobby a career. It was a field that was becoming really big, and my teacher pushed me to go for it. And here I am.
If you had to eat one dessert every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?
A family recipe for black-bottom. It's a mini, bite-size cupcake made of devil's-food cake with a drop of cheesecake filling in the middle. Delicious!
What is your greatest memory from Next Great Baker?
It has been an amazing opportunity to meet new people who enjoy doing what I'm doing. Seeing how they run their trades was such an inspiration. Of course, meeting Buddy has been the highlight. He lets us know what's right and wrong with what we bake. I tend to overthink things, even when I win, but through this process, I've learned to stop doubting myself.
What was the hardest challenge for you on the show?
The engineered cake was definitely the hardest. There were three of us on a team, and none of us knew what we were doing, so it got a little stressful. We spent so much time figuring out how to make the cake move that the quality had to be sacrificed. Obviously, that was the worst cake! (I'm a little embarrassed.)
What was it like having a camera crew follow you around all day?
When they filmed our arriving interviews, I stuttered through them. Then, during the first bakers' challenge, they tell you what to do so quickly that as soon as they say, "Go," you forget that the crew is even there. Except when you trip over their tripods, which got aggravating at times.
How has being on the show changed your life?
Being on the show hasn't changed my life in respect to who I am as a person. It will definitely change my future, though. I've always wanted to have my own bakery. Now it's going to be easier to accomplish that, with the exposure I gained, the prize money, and everything I learned from the best of the best. I wanted to grasp everything I could from Buddy and go from there. It's a dream in the cake world to meet him and learn from him.
Now that NGB is over, what are your current plans?
I was working at the Brownstone in Paterson, New Jersey, which I've had to stop, since I'm working full-time for Buddy. Whether or not I continue on Cake Boss, I want to learn from him and his crew and then go from there.
Are fans waiting to see you before/after taping, like the crowds outside Carlo's Bakery in Hoboken?
I haven't been at Carlo's Bakery that much, because we film at his other location, Lackawanna. I did go into the bakery last week to pick up a few things, and people were asking if I was that girl from Next Great Baker. Some people even asked for a picture.
What is it like working at Carlo's Bakery? Is it what you thought it would be?
It's a lot different than I thought. You watch him on TV, and they have a job that they need to get done, a huge job and large-scale production. When you get there, they're about business, but there is also time for fun and games. I tried to be serious at first, but they really like to have fun. It lightens up the stress of the business. It's definitely been more fun than I could have imagined.
What challenges are you facing now that you're apprenticing with the Cake Boss?
My biggest fear is that they know what I'm capable of now, so I have to get it right. There is no "You did this wrong; do it better next time." This is the big time. This is my job, and it needs to be done right.
Any advice for brides-to-be in the process of selecting their wedding cake?
My advice to brides is to have an open mind. Some people know exactly what they want, and after you talk to them, they change their mind completely. As pastry chefs, we want their wedding cake to look the best it can, so they will be happy in the end. Everything—the flavors, details, design—has to be perfect. When I need my own wedding cake, I know I'll want certain things, but I will remember that the person on the other side has a big task to fulfill as well.
You can find Marissa on Twitter and on Facebook.