Interview with Sidney Galpern
The first time I witnessed the young Sidney Galpern’s talent, she won a contest on my other website, Cakes We Bake. I had no idea she was only 13 at the time; her age certainly wasn’t apparent from the skill level demonstrated in her chocolate sculpture. It wasn’t until I met Sidney 2 years ago at the NCACS show in Virginia that I realized she was so young, yet far beyond her years both in talent and maturity.
|Sidney's winning entry|
At 18, Sidney has already achieved a level of recognition others have waited another decade or more to attain. No doubt, the steadfast support offered by her parents, Mike and Michelle, has played a significant role in her success.
I feel very blessed to call this family my close friends and you can often find me hovering in their booth taking pictures of sugar pieces Sidney creates with Simi Isomalt and tools. Sidney draws a large crowd at every show and, according to Mike Galpern; I’m the only one who gets away with videotaping her. Although soft-spoken during non-cake related conversations, Sidney blossoms when she shares her love of sugar and is eager to share this knowledge in person, as an instructor and by contributing articles to a wide variety of magazines and websites.
Being home schooled enabled Sidney to propel herself forward rapidly in the cake world; graduating high school at the age of 15 facilitated her completion of a degree at the Ecole Chocolat School of the Chocolate Arts as their youngest graduate.
Sidney has trained and interned with top sugar artists and chefs along the east coast. Her company, Simi Cakes was selected to create a cake for ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition Space Coast. Assistants baked while Sidney decorated 4 extreme cakes, 1500 cupcakes and 1500 confections for the show.
For the past 7 years, she has been teaching and demonstrating to cake decorators of all levels from universities, culinary schools, cake shows, days of sharing, cake clubs and cake supply stores. Sidney has also judged and sponsored cake shows and is currently a member of the Icing Images Design Team and Team Sugar Art.
She designs and manufactures her own line of sugar art tools, manufactures her own brand of isomalt, and has written articles for American Cake Decorating Magazine, Edible Artists Network Magazine, CakeFu.com, About.com, the Florida Today Newspaper, Today in Brevard Television Show and ICES Magazine. Her first DVD for cake decorators was released in the fall of 2012.
In her spare time Sidney likes to read and write fiction. Sidney co-founded the Brevard Cake Artist’s Club and her shop, Simi Cakes & Confections in Melbourne, Florida.
I sat down with Sidney for a few minutes at a show to share how she launched her career as a teenager:
When did you start cake decorating?
I’ve been doing cakes for about 6 years. I began with Wilton classes and followed by taking more professional classes and attending shows. It just progressed from there.
How long did you own a bakery?
I had a bakery for about a year and opened it when I was 15. It got too busy with teaching and a running bakery, so I had to choose between the two. I prefer teaching so that is what I chose to do.
What are your favorite types of cakes to design or mediums to work in?
I prefer sugar pieces because that’s what I specialize in. Animals are my favorite to sculpt – a realistic interpretation of animals. I like vintage style cakes and clean lines. I really like trying a little bit of everything.
Are you still doing chocolate?
I do some chocolate. I still teach chocolate and I’m a certified chocolatier. I love making bon bons.
What would you still like to accomplish? You are still so young and have already achieved so much.
I would definitely like to continue teaching and traveling – I love traveling. I would like to continue learning new techniques that I don’t already know. Eventually, when I’m not traveling as much, I’d love to have a chocolate shop.
Whose has influenced your style?
I don’t have one style that I follow; I try to take bits from everything I’ve ever learned and combine them together.
Has any one person been most influential in your cake decorating career?
I took classes and interned with Lauri Ditunno from New York City. I really like her style and she does amazing sugar work. Her work was the first I had seen since she’d been on Amazing Wedding Cakes, so she’s the first person who really influenced me.
What has been the most difficult challenge for you?
Everyone has been so accepting in this industry, so my age has never been an issue. Everyone is so willing to share. One of the hardest things to learn was the chocolate program because it was a 5 month, intensive course.
Have you ever found your age to be a barrier?
I haven’t really had too much of a problem. There are always people who assume I’m not serious at first or that this is just a hobby, but once I start talking about all the things I’ve done and accomplished, that changes.
Do you have certain pieces that are your favorites?
My favorite medium to work with is Isomalt. I just made a sculpted pirate – a bust of a pirate. I enjoyed painting him and sculpting him because I wanted to do more faces. He was really fun to make. I also made a parrot for a cake show last year and I liked working on him because I love sculpting animals.
What tips would you give cake decorators?
You never stop learning. You can always learn something new. I would still take a buttercream class because you can learn a new tip from a different teacher. Focusing on one thing is different, but there is always more to learn.
What would you like to share about yourself that people don’t know?
I love reading and writing. I would love to be a fiction novelist one day. I enjoy writing reading and writing poetry. I also love music and have about 700 songs on my iPod.
How do you handle your social life being on the road so young?
I see my friends when I get home. Now that I’ve gotten older, most of my friends are college age and really busy, too. When I go home, we try to see each other. I have weeks in between traveling that I get to see them. I don’t feel I missed out because I was home schooled, so I’m used to it. I started a lot younger than my friends but I’m happy I started young because I was able to accomplish a lot in a very short time. I’m not a super social person, so even before I started traveling I didn’t see my friends every day. It wasn’t that big of a transition. We keep in touch through social media.
Whether it’s through social media, a cake show or classes throughout the United States, you don’t have to search far to see Sidney in action. She’s an inspiration to the younger generation of cake artists with dreams of following her path and offers a fresh, modern approach to those of us who have been in the cake industry for a while. No matter your perspective, you can’t help but be inspired and to cheer Sidney on to the next step in her impressive career.
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