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Gabby's touch of brilliance

Geraldine Panapasa
Sunday, June 18, 2017

HIS cake decorating skills never cease to amaze his clients and combined with the mouth-watering cakes of all flavours by mum Marina, 20-year-old Gabby Jiare definitely has a bright future ahead of him.

And just like his creations for his mum's business, Sweet Endings Fiji, you can bet Gabby has a lot more in store when it comes to decorating cakes for all occasions.

For a growing local business, Sweet Endings Fiji has churned out some amazing cakes, brownies and cupcakes at its MHCC store in Suva. Delights you would usually find at cafes and coffee shops can be found at Sweet Endings Fiji but with a little twist — pizza, healthy salads, paninis, energy-pumping breakfast, and quick bites also on the menu for busy urbanites and visitors passing by the food court.

On top of those delicacies, it's Gabby's touch of perfection to specially ordered cakes that usually grab the attention of customers, an addition of course to his mum's delectable cake recipes. Originally from Tuakoi Village, Itu'ti'u, Rotuma, the second youngest of six siblings took time out of his busy schedule to talk about life as a cake artist and young entrepreneur.

ST: How did it all start for you, that is, your passion for baking and eventually, decorating?

Gabby: It all started when I'd help out in the kitchen with mum. My mother was an avid home baker who did cakes for everybody. Growing up in that situation meant we'd all spend time as a family in the kitchen together. I had always had other things in mind about what I wanted to be growing up, and being a cake decorator wasn't one of them. I was stuck between a flight attendant or a fashion designer but I guess God had other plans for me. I just didn't see the bigger picture.

ST: Did you have to further your natural talent in terms of schooling locally or overseas?

Gabby: For the past five years of trial and error cake decorating, I have learnt to trust my gut in everything I did. Until now, I am still very reluctant about taking courses as I've made it this far without it. A lot of the things I have learnt through the years was through books, YouTube videos and trial and error.

I owe a lot of my work today to my mum who gave me the resources for all my trials. I practised and practised until it was just right and did many things people spend two to three years in school doing. Maybe when the time is right I may reconsider but as of now I like the terms of being a self-taught cake artist. It just shows I kicked butt too, haha!

ST: How would you describe your style of baking/decorating, and what usually inspires you when you're working on a piece?

Gabby: As for style, I wouldn't consider myself a perfectionist even though a lot of people tell me so. Rather my style falls into simplicity even though some customers don't really see the natural beauty in things they are paying for. I usually get cakes where I am asked to think out of the box and when I do so it always turns out great. Proper planning and pre-sketch is a must.

ST: What do you love about your line of work now, and for someone so young, do you have time to just take a chill pill and relax, or is it all work, work, work for you?

Gabby: I work as a cake decorator and juggle a bit of business management and customer consultation at times so basically all of it. I love my work and I differentiate my priorities between work and play. I have my ways of taking time off work.

ST: What is your ultimate goal in life and do you feel you are one step closer to achieving this or are you content with what you have now?

Gabby: Ultimate goal would be to set up more store fronts and definitely grow! And as fortunate as I am I am lucky to have a base foundation that my mum and dad both built on their own so definitely a lot more work, work, work in the coming years.

ST: What's your favourite creation and why this particular one, or do you have one too many it's hard to choose just one? What do you love about it?

Gabby: I love all my work equally as I have spent precious time doing so and I always give my ultimate best for all but if it's one cake, it would have to be the wedding cake I made for Sean and Charnele at the InterContinental. This wedding cake meant a lot as I got to work with my mum and grandmum in a completely different scene. The memories made that day sunk in deep for me. I felt proud being present there.

ST: What are some challenges you've faced creating these works of art/masterpieces and how do you overcome these?

Gabby: Trial and error. Nothing was ever easy starting out as I used to practise on cakes that ended up sweating and just being horrible. Whenever I had free time, I would practise fondant work on spare cakes until I had my niche of things. I slowly gained confidence the past years all because I learnt a lot from my mistakes, and Fiji's humid/hot weather is not very kind.

ST: What competitions have you entered and how did you rank during those competitions? What do each competition/feedback mean to you, that is, do opinions of others matter?

Gabby: I have only entered two established competitions at the Moffatt Culinaire participating in the open category. I did enjoy the atmosphere at the time and so far I've scooped silver medals for both times I've entered. Everybody has their own two cents comment but who am I to judge.

ST: Some of your works of art are just mind-blowing. Is this one of the benefits or advantages of working with fondant?

Gabby: You can do anything literally with cake whether you use fondant or not, the options are limitless. In my case, I use fondant because it holds for our kind of weather and I rely on it a lot … like 100 per cent.

ST: You use a lot of edible decorations. Do you create everything from scratch or can you buy these from the supermarkets?

Gabby: I do make some from scratch and combine them with candy from the store. Either way it tastes just as good. Depending only on the quality ones you're using.

ST: How long does it usually take you to make/decorate a cake?

Gabby: For an average order 5-6 hours depending … longest I time I have ever spent in the bakery was 15 hours for the whole day! Started around 8am and finished at 11.30pm decorating 500 fondant cupcakes.

ST: Who do you owe your success to?

Gabby: I owe my success to both my parents, the only two that believed in me and supported me in my decision to leave school. Everything I do today is for them and I'm proud of the fact that they've given me freedom that hardly anyone has. I am after all the face of their hard work.

When I left school, my parents supported me, they believed in me and they gave me a chance. It was only right that I make them proud day by day. I love you mum and dad!

So yes, I owe my success to my mum and dad, and the support of friends and family.

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