From Switzerland, to Canada, to California to the high seas - Jörg Amsler has quite a stoic and wealthy journey making pastries/cakes all over the world! Having served celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Jack Nicholson as well as President George Bush - Amsler has many stories to tell, so take a deeper look in this exclusive interview. . .
Brief history of your business and how you got to where you are today? After finishing my apprenticeship and getting my masters in chocolate, I left Switzerland. I always wanted to start my own business, but also gather experience and learn from the best. I set out on a journey and was able to work with great chefs like Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France, Wolfgang Puck in Los Angeles, Julia Child at the James Beard Foundation in New York, and for President Bush and First Lady Barbara in Kennebunkport, Maine. The Bush's hired him as their pastry chef for functions at their summer residence.
(Jörg and all the great chefs he has worked for and learned from - below)
In 1988 I was hired and traveled around the world three times as the youngest executive pastry chef for the Royal Viking cruise line. Passengers awarded Jörg’s desserts and pastry displays the highest marks the pastry department had ever scored prior to Jörg’s tenure. After leaving Royal Viking, he interned with Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France.
In 1990 I moved to California where I spent two years as actor James Garner's private chef serving stars such as Madonna, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Jackson and Jack Nicholson. Eventually I started Truly Jorg's in Boston and over a ten year period I built a successful retail and wholesale dessert production, along with a full service catering business. During that time, I also filmed 10 Food Network Challenges and six episodes of Last Cake Standing. Being on both shows resulted in high demands of wedding, novelty and 3-D cakes. In 2011, I sold the company and became available for other projects that I was passionate about. I started to travel a lot internationally to teach cake artistry, and started my own consulting firm - specializing in start-ups, kitchen design, production, staff training, menu development and cost efficiency. I also develop new culinary programs and cake art syllabus.
(Jörg competing on the Food Network throughout the years - below)
How were you first introduced to Satin Ice? Being from Switzerland I never knew about fondant until I moved to the US. We had always used marzipan for everything; covering cakes, figures, flowers or anything sculpted. Than one day I was given a sample of Satin Ice fondant. After using it, I never looked back. Over the years I have tried and tested every brand of fondant there is and Satin Ice is my choice - hands down. To me its the best tasting and easiest to work with. Also equally important to me, is that wherever I travel and open up a bucket of Satin Ice, even across the globe, it's always the same. Consistency is very important to me. I have to get it locally wherever I am. And often in some remote places that I travel too - there is no plan B options. It has never failed me!
Is there one project that stands out? One of my favorite projects I started is the volunteer work I do - wherever I go. If I travel internationally, I always schedule extra days to volunteer at some kind of culinary school or hospitality program. I demonstrate and do hands on projects with equipment and materials that these kids have never seen or experienced before. At the end I always donate fun items such as airbrush machines or silicon molds, as well as some Satin Ice Fondant. The appreciation, smiles received and being told how inspiring it was - trumps any sort of payment!
(Jörg working and with students in Grenada - below)
What is your signature style & inspiration? I stay away from the pretty flowers, swags, drapes and swirls. My style is a bit more masculine. I love 3-D novelty cakes, sculpting and carving, realistic looking surfaces and airbrushed finishing touches.
Favorite cake? I have a commercial lobster and fishing license in Massachusetts. Being on the boat, pulling in lobster traps and scuba diving, have made aquatic or marine themed projects my favorite. I entered a 6 ft. wide octopus into a competition and to this day it has been my favorite cake. I liked it so much I turned it into a two-day class on a smaller scale.
Most challenging cake to date? I think a tough, but also really awesome project I worked on was a piece for a fashion show. I had to coordinate and communicate with a famous designer just by phone calls and e-mails. We didn't get to meet until the day before the show and had to work all through the night to finish the dress. Hundreds of small individual pieces of fondant and chocolate, airbrushed and painted, had to be sewed on to the fabric liner, but the result was amazing!
What tips can you offer to Satin Ice newcomers? Cake artistry has to be learned. There are great classes, tutorials, tips and techniques, molding and sculpting. It is great to have that basic knowledge - but practice makes perfect. Jimi Hendrix didn't just pick up a guitar - he played on a daily basis. As a cake artist you also have to be a designer and a sculptor in order to understand color combinations. You also need to have some knowledge about tools and building support systems. The bottom line is - never say no. Just do it. Learn as you go, and if you need to troubleshoot or have questions you will find your answers on satinice.com.
Describe your cake decorating style in three words? TO BE EATEN! Cakes are here to be part of a celebration. Sure it's fun to display and admire them, but cakes are designed for consumption. For me watching people's faces as they enjoy a delicious piece of cake is the ultimate reward for the hard work put into it. As far as my style, I try to create cakes that realistic, colorful and non-traditional.
What is a 'regular' cake decorating day like for you? I am extremely fortunate because I get out of bed and I am excited about my day. I love what I do and a cake decorating day can unfold in so many ways. It can take place at my home studio, at a culinary school or somewhere on this planet in a straw hut, ballroom, commercial kitchen, outdoors, in a TV studio or cake shop. I travel internationally and work all over the world. But no matter where, for what and with whom, it's long hours, dedication to excellence, utilizing the best of my ability and having fun with it!
What is your creative process for making cakes? I think it starts way before you enter the kitchen. I have always walked through life with open eyes. There is so much beauty in nature. Whether it's animals, botanicals, colors or shapes, it's all around us. You just have to stop and look at it. For many, life has become too hectic, stressful and way too focused on a small digital screen. I always schedule extra time wherever I go to take it all in. Also as a cake artist, I am plagued by the constant question, "How could I integrate, convert, replicate or sculpt things that are eye catching to me?" My creative process flows through me. I see it, let my head process it and then my hands create it.
What is inspiring you this very moment? I live in New England, and we have the changing of four full seasons. My surroundings, nature, and the vivid colors inspire me. The foliage of the maple trees in autumn, variations of greens and flowers blossoming and blooming in the spring - it all inspires me. Our amazing coast line with its blue tones, aquatic life, crustaceans, or the beach in the summer. Inspiration is all around us. We just have to be open and receive it.
(Fall foliage festive display created for President George Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush for the home in Kennebunkport, Maine - below)
What is your favorite part about designing cakes? I love that I am good at visualizing things. When I think of a cake project, I can literally visualize the process, step by step right down to the end result. I love the creative process, using my own design and turning my vision into a reality. It's like sitting at the piano and playing sheet music or composing a symphony. It's a great feeling to have physically hand crafted a piece of art, and equally satisfying to know someone will love and enjoy it during their celebration.
What is your favorite cake flavor? Tiramisu: Creamy coffee, rum and cocoa goodness, "How can you go wrong?"
If you weren't decorating cakes, what would you be doing? Growing up on a farm in Switzerland surrounded by animals, my dream job was always to become a surgical veterinarian. I may still go for it...
Who is your favorite cake artists in the industry and why? I don't have a favorite cake artist. I love how everybody has his or her own specialty. Some are amazing at flowers, others at sculpting figurines. There are amazingly detailed painters and unrealistically talented sculptors. Some specialize in tiered wedding cakes and others in authentic 3-D projects. At the end of the day there are so many talented people that it is impossible to pick just one.
What are the big trends you are seeing right now in the industry? The cake industry and especially the decorative part of it has exploded. It is amazing how many new items, gadgets, tools and accessories have been developed and are now offered to make things easier and more innovative. And yet, looking back at some of my recent wedding cakes, most brides are choosing simple and elegant. Clean looking fondant covered cakes with elegant but few decorative elements and fresh flowers. On the other hand some of the Bar and Bat Mitzvah cakes or Sweet Sixteen have been requested with every item possible. Individuals order cakes for all kinds of occasions, and each one of them wants to be trendy.
(Along with fellow Artist of Excellence Candace Chand - below)
If you could create a cake for anyone in history (past or present): Who would it be and why? Well, I probably would go with Jesus. It would be interesting to meet him and watch his face eating Tiramisu for the first time. And I am sure I would have a whole lot of questions for him, but I would probably change my mind last minute and sit down with Marilyn Monroe instead to discuss her cake and a dinner date. Lol!
What is the next "big thing" for you? I am not looking for one big thing as far as a single project. I love all the individual based concepts and the diversity that makes up my work. My big thing has been, is and will continue to be, to balance my life between work, traveling and all of my way too many hobbies. There is financial wealth and spiritual wealth, but money has never been my main attraction, and perhaps that’s because I was horrible at math. Happiness and having time to enjoy life and spend time with friends has always been my focus.
Name: Jörg Amsler
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Education/Training: 4-year apprenticeship in pastry and additional masters in chocolate. Zürich, Switzerland.
Business name: Truly Jörg’s Boston, MA
Cake philosophy: Life's too short... eat Cake first!