When it comes to hosting a memorable anniversary party, one decision can often make or break the celebration — the choice of cake. Based on the response and nationwide attention J. Gumbo’s Delaware received for its sixth anniversary cake, it appears business owners Richard and Nathalie Upton nailed that decision.
On March 10, the Uptons celebrated their sixth year of business in downtown Delaware by hosting a party that included family, friends, a film crew, and the star of the show — a one-of-kind cake featuring J. Gumbo’s Cajun/Creole cuisine.
“My clients know they can go anywhere to get something simple, but when they want wild and crazy, they come to me,” said Tim “Timbo” Sullivan, owner of Cakes by Timbo in Columbus, during a recent episode of Food Network’s “Ridiculous Cakes.”
In his cable television debut, Richard Upton challenged Sullivan to come up with a masterpiece for J. Gumbo’s anniversary bash.
“I want an over-the-top cake that looks like our food,” Upton said.
The challenge was on from there.
“Let’s go big,” Sullivan told Upton on the episode. “Bowls (of gumbo) just going all over the place. Just food everywhere.”
After going to the drawing board to hash out a plan, the cameras were rolling when Sullivan and his team went to work on the cake, which he described on the show as featuring a “larger-than-life shrimp po’ boy sandwich” as the base and stacked with “a gravity-defying stack of bowls brimming with gumbo and crab claws piled on top.”
Despite having witnessed Sullivan’s cake-making skills already after Sullivan made Upton’s son, Alexander, a Thomas the Train cake for his third birthday a few years ago, Upton’s response on the show to Sullivan’s idea for the Cajun/Creole cuisine-inspired cake was simple and to the point: “You are getting kind of crazy.”
Sullivan, however, was up to the challenge.
“(Crazy) is what we do here,” he told Upton.
Before getting started on the vanilla cake, which was filled with vanilla butter cream and white chocolate chips, Sullivan and his team had to make every single ingredient for the Cajun dishes, which included using fondant to handcraft items like oversized black beans and grains of rice.
During the episode, Sullivan noted that making the ingredients for the three bowls of gumbo was time-consuming, but it wasn’t the most difficult task.
“The hard part is air brushing the food items (with edible paint) to make them look realistic,” he said.
Unveiling the finished product
While the television audience recently got the opportunity to see the finished result on season two, episode four of “Ridiculous Cakes” on Food Network, the Uptons and anniversary party guests got their first look back on March 10 when the cake was delivered to J Gumbo’s Delaware at 9 N. Sandusky St.
“He just knocked it out of the park,” Richard Upton said after seeing the cake for the first time.
After the show aired, Upton told The Gazette the cake tasted “excellent,” and he was actually “speechless” when the cake was unveiled.
“The bowls (of gumbo) looked exactly like real food,” Upton added. “The presentation was perfect.”
Upton said Sullivan’s greatest talent is probably his artistry.
“He has a mind that only a few people possess,” Upton said. “He is great at it because he can conceptualize the project, put his thoughts clearly to paper, and execute with precision the concept and design.”
As for appearing on cable television, Upton wasn’t concerned much with getting his 15 minutes of fame. Instead, he was just grateful for the exposure his restaurant received by being on Food Network.
“As a Delaware resident and business owner, I was happy to see us get a brief moment on the national stage in a positive venue,” he said.
Upton added several area media outlets ran with the story after learning J. Gumbo’s of Delaware was featured on “Ridiculous Cakes.”
Upton said the media coverage has all been “major wins for a local, independent business.”
The exposure had an immediate impact on the business, Upton added.
“We had more people than normal come through our door (the day after the episode aired), including a new couple from Marysville who stated they saw us on the show, checked us out on the web, and decided to visit. They enjoyed the food and experience. We hope to see more of that.”
Upton said his hope moving forward is J. Gumbo’s Delaware will enjoy many more anniversaries and help to bring more “positive press to Delaware.”
Joshua Keeran can be reached at 740-413-0900. Follow The Delaware Gazette on Twitter @delgazette. Like The Gazette on Facebook.