The Notorious KV: Kerry Vincent Spills on the 2018 OSSAS and Tips for Culinary Success
People in the food industry are no strangers to the name Kerry Vincent. Vincent is known as the Cake Queen, a Food Network Judge, Hall of Fame Cake Artist, and more. Among those many names is the title of Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show (OSSAS) founder, a show that Vincent started in 1993 and continues to this day.
This year, the OSSAS is celebrating its 25th Anniversary. Hundreds of cake artists are going to compete in hope that their design is chosen as the Grand Prize winner at the silver anniversary event.
This year's theme is "I AM A MODERN CLASSIC", chosen by founder Kerry Vincent herself.
"The reason I chose "I AM A MODERN CLASSIC" is because ‘modern classic' is in everyday life. You look at the Greek key design that happened 3,000 years ago on the ancient Greek and Turkish walls, and that pattern is still being repeated on towers today. So, it is something that stood the test of time."
With this concept in mind, Vincent is not looking for a particular design or technique. Instead, she hopes that the theme will bring about a completely diverse selection of entries.
"Everybody is going to choose a different theme. That is why I made the theme itself so wide open, so that if somebody looks at Grace Kelly, her dress, her marriage, and her style, it still prevails today; she is still included in the Top 10 Best Dressed Brides in the past century. ‘In living memory' would be the easiest way to put it," said Vincent. "But I don't care if it's a wedding dress…they could choose a building. There's sort of a juxtaposition of certain things and I want them to go out and find something that's unique."
Although the theme is wide spread, it is possible that contestants could be inspired by the same idea. Therefore, all competitors must submit their idea in advance to ensure that there are no repeats in direction or design.
"When I founded this show 26 years ago, I didn't want boiler plate entries. I wanted people to express their creativity and their innovation."
"When I founded this show 26 years ago, I didn't want boiler plate entries. I wanted people to express their creativity and their innovation. Up until that time, I had been involved in competitions where they are very specific of how much of an element you should have. For example, 4 or 5 chrysanthemums, 3 green leaves, and they have to be a certain color, and I found that completely and utterly boring. So when I set up the rules for this [show], I wanted it as far away from just looking at technical expertise. I wanted them to be as clever, creatively, as well as being really good at what they were able to do. That's why [the show has] prevailed for so long, because it has this surprise factor every time that people go to see it. They're not even vaguely going to find a cake that looks like it was done last year or the year before," said Vincent.
One thing that distinguishes Vincent's OSSAS is that she does not allow for any type of metal or wiring within the desserts. Everything must be eatable.
"The big key here is everything has to be eatable. If a flower is sugar and wired into a spray, then it has to be removable so that they can essentially serve a cake without hindrance of wires. In places like Australia, where I'm from, there's legislation that says no cake decorator can do that, so it is a practice that I have had huge influence [on]…[contestants] know I hate it and I just tell them it's in the rules, we don't have inserted flowers in cakes," said Vincent.
Vincent takes pride in the "everything must be eatable" rule that she has enforced in her competition, but she is also very proud of her tenacious attitude and the devotion it took to create the show.
"…when somebody tells me I can't do something, that just pushes me to be so bloody minded that I am going to do it, despite what [they] have to say."
"What I have done here is created an international platform that normally would not happen in [a place like] Oklahoma. I remember going to publications in New York, telling them what I was doing, and I had people in the food industry looking at me like I had lost my mind. And one of them said ‘oh that will never work [there]," said Vincent. "[But]…when somebody tells me I can't do something, that just pushes me to be so bloody minded that I am going to do it, despite what [they] have to say. And I [told him] ‘in 5 years, you'll be looking at my press release'. He smiled, we said goodbye, and then 3 year later one of his editors called me for my press release."
Vincent's determination to launch the OSSAS is only a single example of what she has had to work hard for in order to achieve. However, it has given her a lot of life experience that she can pass down to others. Here are some pieces of advice for recent culinary school graduates who have big dreams:
School Versus the Real World
- "What I have found with all [graduates] is that they have high hopes. Their professors get them to graduation, but then they have to find a job. So, in the interim…they are floundering because the grandiose thought of ‘I'm going to be a pastry chef extraordinaire' goes down the drain...I don't actually care too much if someone had been to school or not. Sometimes the person that has the will to do something despite all odds turns out to be the better representative of whatever it is they're up to."
Compete in Shows/Competitions
- "I have watched young people who started out at 5 years old, bringing along their precious little cake[to competitions], who now own their own businesses because they have been competing all the way through. And each time they got ribbons, they moved up a notch until in the end, they were master decorators. So these opportunities that are available in cake and pastry competitions… are one way of separating yourselves from the masses. It's one more thing on your resume."
- "If [you] don't have the money to travel, [you] should go to any show, anything that is close by, be in it to win it. Don't just sit back and say ‘oh I'm too tired'. You're never going to get up the corporate ladder if you don't create an avenue for yourself that separates you from the others."
Use Social Media
- "Start sharing on social media, start getting a name, etc. If you can find something to enhance that resume, that's the thing you need to do. It should be ‘I am working and I want to progress up the ladder and how do I get there? Well, I have to find a way'. The tools are there: you have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. You can design, design, design to your hearts content and share your story and images."
The 2018 OSSAS will be open to the public on September 29-30 at the Tulsa State Fair. For more information about the show and Kerry Vincent herself, please visit www.oklahomasugarartists.com.