Union baker a finalist in national cake decorating contest

HOOD RIVER - Union baker and cake decorator Kim Deskin has reached near-celebrity status in this Columbia Gorge town best known for its wind surfing and fruit.

The head cake decorator at Rosauers Supermarket Bakery - one of the few remaining all-scratch retail bakeries in the state - can't go 10 minutes without a customer offering her congratulations or a pat on the back.

Why the fuss?

Deskin, a 14-year member of Portland-based Bakers Local 114, is headed to the national finals of the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association Cake Challenge June 1-3 in Las Vegas. It is the largest industry exposition in the country.

Deskin was one of three persons selected from more than 150 applicants to compete in the all-expense- paid trip (for two) to the finals.

"This is a very big deal in the industry, we're very proud of her," said Rosauers District Manager Chris Batt.

"People come from all around to have Kim decorate their cakes," said co-worker Mary Lane, a member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555. "I'm from Los Angeles and she's better than cake decorators there. We think she's pretty awesome."

Local 114 Business Agent Terry Lansing said Deskin is one of the few journey-level bakers who works as a full-time cake decorator. It's her talent, he said, that has helped make the Hood River Rosauers number one in bakery sales throughout the entire chain of stores.

Deskin, who lives in White Pass, Wash., said she entered the contest on a fluke.

A friend encouraged her to enter, but Deskin balked, saying she didn't have enough pictures of her work to submit a portfolio. But her friend ... and other people did.

"My friend had pictures of my cakes, and other people had pictures, too," she said. "I was absolutely shocked when I was chosen as one of the finalists."

Since being notified by contest officials on March 26 Deskin has been practicing decorating designs at work and sketching drawings at home to determine how she will decorate her cakes. The first day of the three-day contest is devoted to creating a three-tier wedding cake; on day two contestants will decorate enough cakes to fill an 8-foot bakery case; day three is a special cake contest where each contestant decorates three cakes of their choosing; one from each category of special occasion, theme/event, and and the decorator's interpretation of the association's expo theme, which is "A Jackpot of Ideas."

In any event, all of her work will be new and original designs - nothing ever seen before at Rosauers, where she has worked for 14 years.

"I've been very fortunate to work for a company like this. They give me a lot of liberty to do things," she said.

Colleagues say Deskin is a specialist at catering to a customer's needs and wants. "They come in with an idea and she puts it onto a cake," said Local 114's Lansing.

Co-worker Mary Lane said some of Deskin's cakes are decorated so wonderfully that customers won't eat them. Other cakes have no shelf life. "They go in the display case and are sold quickly," Lane said.

Rosauers is an all-union store located at 1867 12th St. in Hood River.

May 16, 2003 issue

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