Cupcake Smash 2014 Judge Bios
Meet the Judges!
Toni Johnson, Production Sous Chef/Kitchen Manager at Philabundance Community Kitchen
Chef Toni Johnson developed her passion for cooking at a young age in her homeland of Jamaica. As a child, Toni learned about creating full flavor cuisine while preparing family meals with her grandmother. A more formal introduction to the restaurant world began as Toni worked in various kitchens throughout the Philadelphia region gaining the practical knowledge to operate in this industry. In 2004, she used that hands-on experience to open, Fusion Island, her very own Caribbean restaurant just off the Main Line in Philadelphia. Here, Toni featured fresh, home cooked traditional island cuisine, custom catering and inspired cooking classes.
On nights and weekends you can find Toni around town as chef-owner of The Mixing’ Bowl Food Truck and of course at Philabundance where she brings her baking expertise and lessons to deserving students every day.
Jennifer Reed, Blogger at One Curly Fry in a Box of the Regular & SideTour/Groupon Dessert Tours
Jennifer Reed is a dessert lover and writer of the food blog “one curly fry in a box of the regular.” She grew up with a wooden spoon in her hand while helping her Grandmother and Aunts cook and bake in the kitchen. She’s a lover of all things cake, and is a buttercream frosting connoisseur. When she’s not working her regular 9 to 5 job or food blogging, she hosts a walking dessert tour in Center City, Philadelphia.
Patricia Smith, Owner/Pastry Chef at Foam Floaterie
Patricia Smith began her pastry career in 2007 when she began classes at The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill in Philadelphia. While attending TRS, she worked as an intern at the Four Seasons Hotel, where she stayed through completion of the Pastry Arts program and was then hired as a full time pastry cook. After leaving the hotel, Tish took a position with the Garces Group. In the summer of 2009, Tish decided it was time to take her career to the next level and moved to Park City, Utah to work at the Waldorf Astoria, Park City. After leaving the Waldorf, she worked as Lead Pastry Cook at Stein Eriksen Lodge in Deer Valley. It was also during this time she competed with her Sous Chef for the title of Utah’s Best Pastry Chef. A title which they won! She worked in Kent, CT for a brief period of time before returning to Philadelphia to open Foam Floaterie, where she is presently. Foam Floaterie is an artisanal ice cream and soda shop in Queen Village.
Davina Soondrum, Owner of Sweet Intentions
Davina is a feisty Caribbean born in Trinidad, but raised in Philadelphia. In March 2006 she graduated with honors from The Art Institute of Philadelphia and worked within restaurant pastry kitchens for about 2 years. Then in August 2008, Ryan and Eric Berley gave Davina her first break as the first pastry chef for The Franklin Fountain in Old City. Countless media appearances, Food Network shows, Man vs. Food, publications, and photos later, the Berley Brothers promoted her to Head Confectioner/resident mad scientist of the newly restored Shane Confectionery-America’s oldest candy store.
Davina’s time with the confectionery garnered a “Best Artisan” distinction from Star Chefs in New York as well as a slot in the Star Chefs International Pastry Competition in September 2013. As of late, she was the Pastry Chef for Fitler Dining Room and Pub & Kitchen and the newly minted owner of Sweet Intentions, an artisanal candy bar line hoping to launch in September 2014.
Gretchen Fantini, Owner/Pastry Chef at Sweet Box Bake Shop/Truck
Gretchen Fantini is the founder of Sweet Box Cupcakes truck and storefront, a Philadelphia Baking Company. In 2011, Gretchen traded careers in the legal field to follow her passion for baking. That was the year she launched Sweet Box Cupcakes Truck. Since 2011, Gretchen has expanded her brand to a storefront located on the intersection of 13th and Pine in Philadelphia, PA. Gretchen and her cupcakes have been featured in The New York Times, USA Today as well as many local publications in Philadelphia.
Melissa Ward, Blogger at Cupcake Friday Project
Melissa Ward is the baker behind Cupcake Friday Project, a local baking blog dedicated to all things butter and flour. In the past 3 years, she’s created 118 different cupcake recipes, as well as original, from-scratch recipes for cakes, pies, cookies and breakfast pastries.
Before joining the Cupcake Smash judging team, Melissa competed as an amateur baker in the past 3 Smashes, and is thrilled to turn in her whisk for her score cards. When Melissa’s not in the kitchen, she’s an editor for a local marketing magazine.
Stephen Wilson, Pastry Chef at 10Arts Bistro & Lounge
Since getting his first job in a kitchen at the age of 16 in his hometown of Gainesville, Florida, Chef Stephen Wilson has worked to better his culinary and leadership talents. Since taking over the pastry chef position at The Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia in early 2013, he has built a strong pastry team, revamped the banquet and restaurant menus, and continues to improve the baking and pastry experience for every guest that visits the exquisite and historic property.
In addition to his time in the kitchen, Wilson also is finishing his first book, entitled ‘Your Perfect Wedding Cake’ that is written as a guide to help engaged couples navigate the process of ordering their wedding cake on any budget. He is also the father of two young children, Berkeley and Verbena.
Jennifer Zavala, Chef/Owner at Cherry Bomb Bus & Top Chef Season 6 Contestant
Jennifer Zavala has been a Chef in the city for the last seven years. A Top Chef season 6 contestant and BBQ enthusiast she currently operates and owns her mobile food business the “Cherry Bomb Bus” around the city of Philadelphia. Look for her hot pink converted school bus slinging a variety of innovated street foods or see her in one of your favorite restaurants cooking.