Tonawanda News

Food

April 15, 2010

Town of Tonawanda woman lands ‘Cake Boss’ internship

TOWN OF TONAWANDA — When the word “internship” is mentioned, most people think of coffee runs, endless typing and other menial tasks meant to weed out the weaker people in a given career field.

In the case of Lisa Cook, “internship” means working alongside one of the nation’s premier chefs and possibly appearing on one of cable television’s hottest shows.

Cook, a 21-year-old native of the Town of Tonawanda, is in the midst of an internship at Carlo’s City Hall Bake Shop, where the TLC show “Cake Boss” is filmed. While learning the finer points of pastry from “Cake Boss” star Buddy Valastro, the appropriately surnamed Cook also has gotten her cooking career off to a fantastic start.

Giving credit to her mom, Gail, for fostering her love of baking, Cook knew that she wanted to get into the baking business in some way after graduating from Kenmore East High School in 2006. Once she heard about Niagara County Community College culinary programs, she couldn’t wait to attend.

“I learned so much in the year that I was there. All the advisers were amazing,” she said.

Upon graduating from NCCC last spring with a degree in baking and pastry arts, Cook returned home wondering what to do next. She soon heard of the internship opportunity from a cousin who lives in Long Island and sent a resume to the Hoboken, N.J., bake shop.

Soon after flying to New Jersey in December for an interview and one-day trial, Cook was offered the position. So she moved in with her cousin and began making the 90-minute commute each way between Long Island and New Jersey for the three-days-per-week internship. She began in January and has since filled the display cases, worked on fondant pieces, made flower decorations and performed many of the other necessary tasks at the business.

“I’m always busy, and they always have me doing all kinds of fun stuff,” she said by phone during a recent return visit to Western New York.

More than three-quarters of Cook’s graduating class has procured employment already, according to NCCC instructor Maria Iacovitti, but few people land an opportunity such as Cook’s so quickly. Iacovitti, who Cook cited as a major influence, said that her student always displayed the skills needed to rise to the top of the baking industry.

“Lisa was a very conscientious student. She always wanted to raise the bar. I just gave her the tools to begin,” said Iacovitti, a certified pastry chef. “She’s a go-getter, so I guess if you have that will to succeed, you will present yourself, go out there and find an opportunity.”

Cook might present herself on TLC in the near future, as well. Network film crews have been shooting the series’ third season during her stay at Carlo’s, and she said she had to sign network waivers and has been present numerous times while cameras have been rolling. She doesn’t know if any of the footage featuring her will make the final cut, but she will be among the most intent viewers when the third season airs this summer.

“It definitely is exciting. (Her family) can’t wait to watch that show,” she said. “I watched the show while in school, and if you were to ask me a year ago if I would be in Hoboken working with Buddy, I would never have imagined it.”

Cook might also have gotten herself a full-time job out of the gig. Although the internship was for an indefinite period, Cook said that this week, she was to discuss with the bakery management team employment opportunities either part time or full time. Any such position would be welcome, she said.

“New Jersey is a very friendly, very warm atmosphere,” she said. “I think I love it out there.”

She also loves her mother, though, and said that if things don’t work out in the tri-state area, she would considering returning home (or bringing her mom downstate) to run a bake shop together. Wherever her culinary career takes her, Cook has the skills to succeed, Iacovitti said.

“Things like the Food Network glorify (the baking business). But in the end, it’s a lot of hard work,” she said. “It was a pleasure to have (Cook) in class. I see her going places.”

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