Monthly Industry Insights
Hear from industry leaders about their guilty pleasures, the oddest thing in their refrigerator, their inspirations and take on new trends. Learn more about the people behind the foods and dishes you know and love - and others you SHOULD know and love. We've asked all of questions and have the answers for you here.
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Interview with Letty Alvarez, LA Sweetz
Pastry Chef Letty Alvarez is performing a culinary demonstration Friday, October 13th at 12PM at the 2017 Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show.
1. What made you want to become a baker?
Well, If I gave you an honest answer, I’d have to say necessity. I was a very young mother and when my son was going to turn one, I wanted him to have an amazing birthday cake. Being so young I was not able to afford the beautiful fondant cake I had envisioned for his celebration so rather than settle, I decided I could learn and make him the cake I had dreamed of. I took a few basic cake classes in my community, and fell in love with baking and decorating. I ended up baking and decorating the cake I had dreamed of for his party and then soon after, friends and family asked if I could bake for their parties. The rest is history!
2. What makes your cupcakes stand apart?
I truly believe our straight forward approach on using fresh, quality ingredients such as European butter, dark chocolate and real fruit is what sets our product apart from the rest. Nowadays most bakery owners are all about the shortcuts; they substitute lard/shortening for butter or powdered milk for real milk... They cut corners to save time and make more money, but in the end, those shortcuts hurt. Consumers are very savvy and recognize quality. They may buy a few times from you, but eventually they don’t return unless your product has the “wow” factor, and nothing can produce that “wow” factor better than real, quality ingredients.
3. What’s your favorite cupcake creation?
I’d have to say I honestly don’t have a favorite as I love all of my creations the same... I do however love a challenge... Perhaps that’s why I often get called to participate on food reality shows... I love using unconventional ingredients such as tequila, beer or gummy worms in our cupcakes. That kind of “off the wall” ingredient really helps you elevate your game and in turn produce a unique but always delicious new cupcake flavor.
4. You really hit the culinary scene from a national and international perspective with your participation on Cupcake Wars and The Next Great Baker. What were some of your favorite challenges?
Trust me, being on TV is challenging enough without the shenanigans of the actual episode challenges... What the audience does not see is that most contestants are secluded and kept away from their family or significant other while the show is being taped. Sometimes that can be as little as one week or as long as three months, depending on how far you get in the competition. Not having your support system in place to cheer you on as you advance in the competition or lift you up when you do poorly is the hardest challenge any contestant faces. As far as on-set challenges go, I’d have to say building a life-size replica of a human being on Cake Boss Buddy Valastro’s hit show The Next Great Baker was one of the toughest cake challenges I’ve had.
5. What was it like for LA Sweetz to become a franchise?
Franchising LA Sweetz in 2015 was like a dream come true, except it was by far the biggest dream I ever dreamt. When you put your heart and soul into a concept and you see how amazing your customers' experience is, it’s only natural to want to share that with a broader audience. When we opened LA Sweetz in 2008, and became the overnight success story that we became, I was approached by several companies to franchise our concept; but franchising can be an overwhelming project and partnering up with a complete stranger was a bit frightening to me, so I decided to grow organically and not franchise for quite some time. Then in 2015, I met a franchise consultant named Larry Pettit; he laid out a plan so clear and precise that I finally felt comfortable and finally ready to take that leap of faith. LA Sweetz was franchised in 2015 and sold 5 units in Orlando. We are an emerging franchise, growing steadily, but I must admit slowly by choice as I think a slow and steady approach to selecting the perfect partners is key to our success. Many investors have applied but I am in no hurry to partner up with a Mr. or Mrs. Wrong. Our franchise partners have to be vested in our mission to make the world a sweeter place one customer at a time.
6. What is the newest culinary or baking trend you see emerging that you're using yourself?
Drip cakes, using fresh fruits and unconventional cake designs are really hot now, but honestly, I feel the biggest trend emerging in the market is not what kind of food you are producing as much as what your brand story is, and where your food and ingredients come from. As the foodie culture grows here in the States, it is clear that the typical consumer is more interested in what is in their food and where it comes from. Being authentic and transparent with your product line is a huge trend right now; not only does it help add value to your product, but it creates a loyal follower, brand ambassador and true super fan.
7. What’s the strangest thing we would find in your refrigerator?
The strangest thing you would find in our Cupcake Shop’s refrigerator would be stout beer... I’d like to say it's there for recreational use but honestly its there for Chocolate Stout Cupcakes we put out in the Fall. In my personal refrigerator, I’d say the strangest thing you would find is my collection of Hot Sauces... I love everything HOT, so having different flavors and heat options is a must! I put hot sauce on everything. LOL
8. If you could eat anywhere in the world, where would that be?
You know for me it's not really about the place itself, but more so about the passion the chef has for his art on a plate. I’ve never eaten at a 5 star Michelin rated restaurant, so I guess that would be a great place to start!
9. Is there one comfort food that you’re secretly obsessed with having at home?
Sadly yes. Bread in all forms, shapes and flavors is must with every meal. No bread, no meal, that is the rule in my home. My hips don’t lie. LOL
10. Which talent would you most like to have that you don’t possess?
I wish I could play instruments. I love music, it streams in my shops, home, cars, phone etc. etc... I listen to music from the moment I wake up till I lay down. If I could play the guitar, piano, violin, any instrument really... I could entertain myself forever!
11. What’s your favorite dessert to bake for friends?
None, don’t laugh... because I bake for a living, I don’t like baking at home. Making amazing ice creams is my thing. I love creating new flavors, experimenting with texture. I make it my mission to wow friends and family members with delicious, unique, custom ice cream blends that no one can buy off the store shelf.
12. Who was your mentor or role model as you were becoming a baker?
Being a young mom of five really gave me very little time for anything other than pre-recorded TV shows. I admired and studied through their cable shows Buddy Valastro, Duff Goldman and Ron Ben Israel for quite some time, and actually learned a lot from Buddy himself when I was cast on his show. His intense work ethics were really inspiring to me.
13. If you could cook for and dine with anyone, who would that be?
Well I’d like to say important, famous or holy people like Oprah or Jesus, but honestly I have dined with my share of famous people such as Donald Trump, Buddy Valastro, Giada and many, many more, but in the end none of those encounters or dining experiences comes close to sitting with my family or close friends over a casual and informal dinner in my kitchen. There’s something magical that happens at the dinner table when you break bread and share a meal with those you love the most.
14. What can attendees expect from your session at the 2017 Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show?
They can expect a FUN yet EDUCATIONAL demo where I will be 100% present, and ready to engage and entertain the audience with my unique culinary flair and sassy humor.
15. What can your fans expect from you next?
The unexpected of course. Life is such an exciting place to be, changing with the times and trends is needed to not just survive but to thrive. With so many culinary food shows and audiences that love to watch, cook and bake like their idols, creating a hands-on experience is my next big project! LA Sweetz Creative Lab is on the horizon! Watch out world, this Innovative shop is going to “bake” you very happy real soon.
Visit Letty Alvarez online at LA Sweetz HERE
and like her on Facebook HERE
More about Chef Alvarez:
Letty Alvarez is the founder and head pastry chef of LA Sweetz, a top rated cupcake bakery and celebration venue. Letty’s cupcakes and venturesome attitude have been featured on various culinary cable networks such as TLC, Food Network and The Cooking Channel.
In November of 2008, Letty and her husband Eddie Dominguez launched their concept LA Sweetz in Miami, Florida. LA Sweetz is a gourmet confectionary shop that specializes in mini cupcakes with a separate, festive party room venue that hosts birthday parties and decorating classes throughout the year. Their vision was to create a space where sweet lovers could purchase their gourmet goods, host their very own parties and take decorating classes, all under one roof.
Letty’s appearance on hit culinary shows such as Cupcake Wars, Cakeboss’ The Next Great Baker, Sugar Showdown and Unique Sweets, to name a few, have made Letty renown among sweet lovers from around the world and deemed her a celebrity chef. Letty’s national and international following prompted her to franchise LA Sweetz in March of 2015. Toda,y LA Sweetz has two corporate locations in Miami and two of five sold franchise units in Orlando, Florida.
Letty’s future expansion plans continue to propel her to emerge as one of the best franchise opportunities available on the market. She looks forward to opening many LA Sweetz franchise units across the country to ensure everyone gets to live life a little sweeter.
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