Published Date Written by Tom EastmanBy Tom Eastman
Regardless of whether or not they won, Kathy and Marc Iannuzzi of White Mountain Cupcakery are expecting nothing but good to come out of their scheduled appearance this Sunday, Oct. 28, at 8 p.m. in a broadcast of an episode of “Cupcake Wars” on The Food Network, aired on Channel 57 for local Time-Warner customers.
“We know that the show has a following, and we know it's going to bring new people to our business. We're gearing up for it,” said Marc, who along with his partnership with wife Kathy at the White Mountain Cupcakery, is also one-half of the Boston Brothers Pizzeria with his brother Steven.
The show was taped in California in July. Under each episode's format, four contestants battle it out.
Under the terms of their agreement with “Cupcake Wars,” the Iannuzzis are not allowed to say how they fared until the show airs.
“We can't, we really can't,” said Kathy. “We had to sign a confidentiality agreement, so it's really top secret until the show airs.”
So, patrons of their nearly three-year-old North Conway Main Street cupcakery will just have to wait and tune in for Sunday's broadcast.
Win, lose or draw, Kathy says it's already been an incredible experience.
“Marc and I have worked in the food business together for many years at restaurants and here at this business, so we already knew that we make a good team. But now, after this, we've become even closer — I tend to get emotional, shall we say? And he is very calming. I tend to start going a little crazy and he brings me right back. It's one of the reasons why we have worked so well together being husband and wife. 'Focus, focus, focus,' he'll tell me, you know? I work best under pressure, but it's just leading up to that place of, 'Oh my God!' He's cool under pressure. I'm a little nervous about how the editing will make me look come Sunday night. Who knows, I might be portrayed as the ball and chain! We'll see.”
Marc echoed the same thoughts about the couple's ability to work well with one another. They've known each other since she was a ninth grader and he was a senior back home in Everett, Mass. They've been together for 18 years, and have been married for nine.
He has been a sous chef at a country club in Florida while Kathy worked in the front of the house. They also worked in that manner at the Red Fox Bar and Grille when they first moved to the Mount Washington Valley four years ago.
“I've done a big golf tournament in Florida where I cooked for 80,000 people in one week. The pressure in the competition for this was the most intense I have ever experienced. I'm not sure that anything could possibly bring us any closer, but this did,” said Marc, in a phone interview from Boston Brothers Pizzeria Wednesday, while Kathy was interviewed earlier in the day over the phone from their increasingly busy and what's sure to get even busier White Mountain Cupcakery once the show airs Sunday night.
Said Kathy, “It was the most nerve-wracking thing I've ever done — outside of having kids.”
Both expect good returns — even more if they were to win.
“My other brother owns a restaurant in East Boston, and he was featured on The Food Network's 'Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,’ and he says it tripled his business. So, we're gearing up, no matter what,” said Marc. “I mean, we'll see places featured on TV in Portland, and we'll drive over to experience it.”
“We're foodies,” agreed Kathy.
So are millions of other Americans, who tune into the Food Network's array of shows regularly — including “Cupcake Wars.”
Qualifying for the bakeoff
The Iannuzzis founded their business in the relocated SAU 9 office building in 2009. Business has been growing ever since, as customers continue to discover their array of mountainous and sinfully delicious cupcakes and custom cakes.
They decided to try to take their business to the next level by applying to be on the show late last winter.
They got called in April, with the producers requesting that they submit an audition tape.
“It was April vacation week, which everyone know is is a very busy time,” said Kathy, “but we did it on our iPhone and had my cousin do the editing. Then we sent it in.”
That led to producers contacting them again, this time requesting a full application with biographical information to send along with the audition tape to the executive producer.
“They look for personality,” said Kathy — along with great cupcakes, of course.
They were accepted, and were invited to come compete in California in July.
According to the show's website, “Each week, four of the country's top cupcake bakers face off in three elimination challenges until only one decorator remains.”
The first round was based purely on taste based on the ingredients that each of the contestants are provided by the producers.
The second round was based on 50 percent taste and half on presentation on whatever recipe each contestant wanted to present.
The third and final round, should you get there, was to make 1,000 cupcakes and to have them ready and on display by the time clock runs out.
So what did the Iannuzzis prepare and how far did they get?
Again, you'll just have to tune in.
A “sweet” prize of $10,000 awaits the winners, along with the opportunity to showcase their cupcakes at the winning gig.
“Whether a special Ace of Cakes anniversary celebration, a star-studded magazine party or an A-list celebrity golf tournament, these 'Cupcake Wars’ really heat up,” says the website.
The Iannuzzis were pitted against three other baking couples: one from Texas, another from Indiana, and one from California.
“We went up against perfect strangers,” said Marc. “They [the show's producers] didn't want us to know too much about them or to interact much as they wanted us to keep that competition alive.”
Serving as the show's permanent judges are Candace Nelson (owner of Sprinkles Cupcakes premier bakery of Beverly Hills, and credited by the Iannuzzis as the baker who got this whole high-end cupcake craze going a decade or so ago); and Florian Bellanger (chef and co-owner of online macaroon company MadMac). “Florian is like the Simon Cowell of the show — if he makes a good remark about the quality of your cupcake, you know you're doing something right.”
Not that she's saying he did — but hint, hint, he just might've. Again, tune in to see for sure.
A third rotating judge is added each week.
Justin Willman hosts. (“He's a total cutie-pie,” said Kathy).
Kathy says if they win, it will be affirmation that this idea of opening a cupcakery in North Conway Village three years ago wasn't such a crazy thing at all.
She has always loved baking, and began making treats for friends and family while in high school.
“I was a B student, until I got into clinary arts — then I was an A student,” she said.
She and her Marc lived near her in-laws in Everett, with backyards facing one another. “It was all very close knit,” she said. Then Kathy and Marc moved to Florida, and her in-laws moved to the valley.
“We missed that togetherness. We came here for a visit, and loved it. So, we moved here four years ago,” she said.
They worked together at the Red Fox, and Kathy continued to make baked treats for friends. Word got around, and people asked why she wasn't baking as a business.
Soon, Kathy received a call from Sheila Duane of River Run Management, Joe Berry's rental company, saying they had retail space in the then-newly relocated former SAU 9 building.
“We looked at it in September, and it had not yet been fixed up. You could see the horsehair plaster and everything, but to me, I thought it was beautiful, and I could envision cakes and cookies and whatever that we could sell there,” said Kathy, noting that even though she and Marc had just had their third child six months before, they went ahead with the business venture.
They opened just prior to the busy Christmas week in December 2009. In the three years since opening, they've built a loyal following — not among calorie counters, perhaps, but among those who love a moist, homebaked cupcake or creative specialty and wedding cakes.
“Our wedding cake business is really growing,” said Kathy.
Cookies and whoopie pies have also been popular.
Their staff now includes a baker, Kris Carr, who comes in at 4 a.m. Others on staff include Kristi Krebs, Kate Stanley, Ronnie Scharton (a Kennett High junior) and the Iannuzzis' daughter, Julianna, 14, who is a freshman at Kennett.
They offer such flavors as the Sunshine (yellow cake topped with a homemade buttercream frosting and covered with yellow sprinkles); the Sno Cap (chocolate cake topped with homemade creamy buttercream frosting); the Avalanche (chocolate cake, chocolate buttercream and melted milk chocolate on top, staying with the mountain theme); the Boston Cream (yellow cake filled with Bavarian cream, topped with a dollop of chocolate frosting), and everyone's birthday party favorite, the Mt. Washington (a huge cupcake available in any of the 14 flavors on the menu, and capable of feeding 12 of your closest friends).
Specialty flavors change with the seasons. Last weekend, for example, White Mountain Cupcakery featured pumpkin maple walnut, made using locally produced maple syrup. They've offered maple bacon cupcakes, consisting of maple cinnamon cake, with maple butter cream topped off with crispy bacon.
“We've got all sorts of creative flavors coming,” said Kathy, including one they featured on the show.
OK. Which one was that?
“Again,” laughed Kathy, “I can't tell you.”
We know, we know. We'll just have to watch the show.
• • •
Hours for the White Mountain Cupcakery are normally 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. This week, however, the business will also be open Monday and Tuesday, following Sunday night's airing of the “Cupcake Wars” show featuring them at 8 p.m. on the Food Network, Ch. 57.
For more information, call 733-5310 or visit www.whitemountaincupcakery.com.