People are still buzzing about chefs Casey Shiller and Dana Holland of Jilly’s Cupcake Bar & Café, who recently took home the gold in Food Network’s popular show, Cupcake Wars. In the episode that premiered June 28, the pair beat out three other contenders for the $10,000 grand prize.
Each chef is a culinary powerhouse in his own right, but as a team, their varied skills meshed perfectly and worked to crush their opponents and bring the glory back home. We caught up with Shiller right after the big win, and he filled us in on some of the details of the competition and what’s in store now that Jilly’s is a nationwide big deal.
LN: How long have you two been working together?
CS: Dana and I have been working together for almost two years. The savory side and the pastry side are pretty separate things, so while we worked together, we never worked that closely until the taping of the show.
LN: How did you split your duties for the competition?
CS: On the plane ride out to LA, we strategized our roles. Basically, I’m the science guy, so I took care of the weighing and measuring and Dana took care of the oven. Both Dana and I are used to delegating, so when the baking assistants joined us in the final round, we were both comfortable assigning what needed to be done.
LN: From the time you sent your audition tape, how long was it until you found out you were going to compete?
CS: We were contacted to put the audition video together for Season 2, and it took a year until they saw it. We traveled to shoot Episode 3 of Season 3 in early May, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first American in space. (The theme of the episode was ‘The Final Frontier,’ an homage of sorts to space travel).
LN: How hard was it to keep a lid on the news when you found out you won?
CS: It was the hardest secret to keep, let me tell you! It was horrible to keep our staff in the dark, but we were able to tell them one week prior to airing. It was an amazing staff meeting that morning!
LN: What’s in the near future for Jilly’s?
CS: We’re very open to the idea of bringing on additional investors that would like to assist in taking our brand further.
LN: Will Jilly’s expand in the St. Louis market?
CS: We are working on possibly expanding in our current building. We do gorgeous cupcakes, and it’s really cool to watch our designers and decorators work. My goal is to bring them up from the basement and make them part of the experience at Jilly’s.
LN: Cupcakes have really exploded in popularity, but some are now saying they’re on the wane. Does the trend have legs?
CS: In the hustle and bustle of cities like New York, the clientele are saying OK what’s next? But the openness of finding a great product and standing by it is what sets St. Louis apart. There are certain foods that transport you back to a certain time in your life, and I think everyone has that memory of when they had their first cupcake.