November 28, 2012
CHS grad gets shot at being best baker
Gretel-Ann Fischer cast on reality TV show “Cake Boss: Next Great Baker”
A Marathon native is competing in the third season of The Learning Channel’s “Cake Boss: Next Great Baker,” a reality show in which 13 contestants are run through a gamut of baking trials for the chance of winning $100,000 and a feature in Redbook, a national women’s magazine.
Gretel-Ann Fischer graduated from Cortland High School in 1996. She went on to graduate with a culinary degree from Paul Smith’s College and open a bakery in 2010 called Cupp’s with her husband, Brian, in Winooski, Vt. They reside in nearby Burlington with their children Teaghen, 7, and Benjamin, 4.
Fischer’s parents, Don and Cynthia Alexy, reside in Marathon, along with her sister, Jennifer Gofkowski, a former Cortland County legislator. Fischer said she used to help her mother cook, but never seriously got into baking until college. She now considers herself pretty good at it.
“Give me a shape or a theme and I’ll give you a cake,” she said in an interview Tuesday.
Fischer said her specialty is in wedding cakes and three-dimensional cakes, which tend to be the most difficult and time consuming. The show put her abilities to task, she said, requiring contestants to make cakes with 12 moving parts or even working fireworks.
Her bakery makes morning pastries and evening desserts, offering unique flavors like wasabi butter cream or spiced hot chocolate cupcakes; it also has a sandwich bar, which serves panini, salads and soups.
And it is because of her Winooski bakery that she decided to do the show, she said. The $100,000 prize money would be applied to paying the debts she and her husband incurred when they opened their bakery.
“If I don’t get on the show and if I don’t win this $100,000, I think we’ll have to close,” Fischer said in her audition tape. “This is my one last chance. I have nine employees and I’m trying to pull everything together for them.”
She said her shop’s problems have been a symptom of the poor economy.
“It’s hard to own a business right now, and my business is a luxury. A lot of people don’t have money for those luxuries,” said Fischer of her treats.
New episodes of “Next Great Baker” air at 9 p.m. on Mondays. The first episode reairs tonight at 8 and 11 p.m. During the 90-minute episode, contestants are tasked with building a groom’s cake with a Mexican fiesta theme for the wedding of television host and actor Mario Lopez of “Saved By the Bell” and “Dancing with the Stars” fame.
According to TLC, other celebrity guests include N’Sync grad Joey Fatone and fitness expert and ex-”Hulk” Lou Ferrigno.
After each week, in the vein of many other reality shows, one baker is eliminated by the host and judge, Buddy Valastro, who stars in one of TLC’s most successful shows, Cake Boss.
Fischer said the real challenge of the competition is the pressure of a time limit and the interpersonal dynamics between bakers all vying for the prize pot.
“It’s totally a mental challenge. I didn’t ever feel that a cake challenge couldn’t be accomplished,” she said.
The often heated exchanges between high-strung competitors is not rehearsed, edited in or put on for the cameras, Fischer said.
“At one point we were up for like three days straight. It’s fun but your emotions get raw when that happens,” she said of the experience.
She did not apply to join the show of her own accord but was contacted by High Noon Entertainment, the show’s producer, who sent her an email in May to see if she was interested, Fischer said.
She is unsure of how they had heard of her business, although she said it had gained some fame in a Vermont pastry battle called the Sweet Start Smackdown.
Ten episodes of the new season of “Next Best Baker” were shot earlier this year, and every contestant will return for a final episode on Feb. 12 when a winner is decided from the two surviving bakers. Fischer would not spoil whether or not she is going to be one of them.
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