This week's Newsmaker is Jo Orr, who makes cakes for sick children as part of Operation Sugar.
Tell us about yourself:
I grew up in Ohope, as a teenager moved to Rotorua. I trained as a Chef at Otago Polytechnic and moved to the Gold Coast of Australia for six years to work in the highly awarded Mario's Italian Restaurant before returning to Rotorua to set up Ciccio Italian Caf (I am head chef) with my mother Bev. I'm married to an awesome bloke with a wonderful step daughter and two fur kids
How did you learn to make cakes?
I first learnt to decorate cakes with my grandmother, we didn't have playdough at her house - we had sugarpaste so I was making roses from about 5. Being a cake decorator your are constantly learning by tutorials and videos and learning from other decorators. Most of my cakes were for my niece and nephews, then friends and family with only recently doing more and more for customers who had tried our cakes in the caf and wanted a whole one for their birthday or wedding.
When did you decide you would make cakes for sick children?
On Facebook talking to fellow decorators in Australia, UK and USA and they had similar organisations. New Zealand didn't have one until Rachel set up Operation Sugar in September, with Kiwicakes as their major sponsor. I jumped at the opportunity as did so many decorators across New Zealand to join this organisation. It is such an honour to make cakes that bring such joy to kids who have been through so much. That smile when they see their cake ... makes all those hours work so worthwhile
How many cakes do you make a year?
I make all of the cakes at Ciccio so a lot, but the custom cakes average maybe 1-2 a week, not many the size of Donkey though.
What is the most extravagant or most memorable cake you have made?
Probably the cake I made for the Rotorua International Airport first birthday, the North Island measured 1.8m x 2.2m and the dark chocolate mud cake weighed about 60kg and took four of us to lift it. It only just fit in the ex-ambulance we used to transport it out to the airport and it had to go through the arrivals gate as wouldn't fit through the door. Two hundred people at the function ate Northland, but provided a great talking point for their function.
When you are not making cakes, what are you doing?
Just spending time with my family or chatting online to fellow decorators (who have become friends ... yes even the competition), watching tutorials and learning new techniques.
How do you feel when you give your cakes to the children?
It's a pretty amazing feeling. They usually go quiet for a few minutes while they take it all in, then the smile comes ... It's all about making their day awesome.
Are you quite a creative person in general?
Kind of ... with food definitely. I love inventing new recipes especially for cake flavours (I don't follow recipes out of cookbooks), other than that I like building websites, upcycling, sewing and crafty things. I just cannot draw not even a stick figure to save myself.
Tell us about Operation Sugar:
I'm really thankful to the fantastic support of fellow New Zealand decorators. When I was making Donkey I couldn't find my confectioners glaze anywhere so Sarah from "The Cake Tin" jumped in her car and drove across town to lend me hers for painting his eyes. It's great how we can support each other and the comradery between Kiwi decorators was even noticed and mentioned recently online by a famous Cake Decorator.
Tell is three things about yourself that most people wouldn't know:
1. I do websites for fun. I just set up a cake decorators' website called www.cakeNZ.co.nz. It includes a free to list directory of cake decorators for the whole of New Zealand, tutorials, suppliers and NZ Cake of the Week competition for professional and amateur decorators to showcase their skills.
2. I'm a really good fisherwoman but I can't eat them as I am deadly allergic to fish.
3. My husband and I recently raised a baby Pukeko "Pooki" that now lives at Rainbow Springs. He's really cute and friendly.