The Ultimate Professional
Steve Benison started his career in the hospitality industry. Steve was encouraged by his tutor to compete in culinary art competitions at an international level and in Salon Culinaires in the U.K. where he gained an array of gold and silver awards. Steve joined the British Sugarcraft Guild which has put him in good stead to judge, be chairman of judges and then fortunate enough to be invited to demonstrate and teach worldwide.
Steve Benison has a professional career as a chef, specialist patisserier and a teacher in further education for the last 33 years. Steve has taught over 5,000 students and many have gone on to achieve outstanding positions within the hospitality industry. Steve was honoured to be invited to Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s diamond garden party celebrations for services to education.
A range of cake decoration books have been written during Steve’s career for leading publishers. He has regularly written feature articles for international cake magazines along with a range of self published books and DVD’S, showing the use of his particular style of decoration. Steve has designed and manufactured numerous pieces of cake decoration equipment, including moulds, stencils and his unique design of specialist and innovative cutters. He strives to educate newcomers and experienced decorators to be inspired with different design ideas that he has created, stretching the imagination, and creativity.
Steve likes to be innovative with new ideas and techniques for cake decoration and designed his first cutter the Link Twist collection over 25 years ago and continues to develop his range of products which he promotes through his web site www.sugar-artistry.co.uk
Chatting to Steve
Cake Life has known you for over 20 years Steve, we've both seen many changes in the cake world, what is the biggest change you have seen?
The biggest change is the use of so many different techniques and skills and the incorporation of different craft techniques that have been reproduced in different edible mediums. Cakes have become much bigger in height and the depth of the cake deeper giving more scope for displaying features and decorations.
The different flavours and base cakes being used has also changed from the traditional rich fruit cake, vanilla Madeira to an array of moist and fragrant fillings to name the recent wedding cake of William and Meghan, with lemon and elderflower.
Butter cream decoration has also seen new heights and trends with the numerous piping tubes, colours and combinations of cake shapes, all adding to the exciting creations that can now be achieved.
You are very well respected for your innovative techniques, particularly your high quality cutters, which is your favourite?
Most of my cutters are not the traditional shape, and each one has been inspired from a different source, which I am always exploring. It’s amazing to see what you can achieve with one cutter, and always pleasing when you demonstrate and see the reaction of the students on what they can create. I don’t really have a favourite, as they all give different results- maybe the double leaf scroll cutter as its classic and you can create lots of different designs.
Where do you gain your inspiration from, designing cakes for 35 years!
I am always looking at nature, architecture and different craft ideas that can inspire a particular technique that I can explore with a sugar medium. I have used food, garden sculpture; jewellery with a particular influence on Art Deco designs which admire. You have to think about how you can incorporate the source material into a design and how it might fit and work. Many sketches, paper templates are created even before I get to the final design idea which I want to make into a cutter, and of course it has to have different uses, not a “one cutter “one use idea.
How important do you think it is to have formal training at a college in cake decorating?
Formal training at college allows you to understand the various skills and knowledge of the foods and legislation that will allow you to develop as a qualified cake designer and maker.
Just being able to make the cake and create the finish is ok, but understanding about the ingredients, the design principles and faults that can occur will allow you to develop knowledge and understanding of this wonderful world of sugar that we can explore.
There are many online tutorials that have emerged, and through the development of the world web it is amazing to see how many different styles and avenues you can gain information from, but a qualified person is able to demonstrate to a specific standard that they have followed a recognised route and therefore can differentiate from a non trained person, promoting and advertising their cake decoration service.
Cake International celebrates its 25th Show in November, what influence do you think CI has had on the industry?
I have been to all of the shows, apart form 2009 when I was guest demonstrator in New Zealand, and had to ask for team two to represent me there!
The show has grown in size, not only from the number of visitors, competitors and business which now present a world renowned showcase of the most talented cake decoration in the world.
This has given an opportunity for competitors to display their skills, learn from experts and through social media captivate an audience, which is something that has also grown in popularity, didn’t exist when the show started.
It has also been a meeting place where enthusiasts meet up and look forward to seeing what’s new and what new cake stars are evolving. Furthermore it is also been a benchmark of the industry cake decoration exhibitions, and there have been many worldwide, but everyone has heard of the Cake International at the NEC !
I hope to be part of it for as long as I can and still have the same passion for when I first became interested in this wonderful art over 45 years ago.
And Finally...What plans do you have for 2019 Steve?
I am taking a break for a few months at the end of December and January to mark the retirement of my full time teaching career in further education and to visit family in Australia, and then in the spring of 2019 I will concentrate on demonstrations and workshops, where I will be able to show my skills in the various sugar mediums. I have also been invited to South Africa as one of their international demonstrators for their cake decorating conference, and will also be developing other avenues for sharing my skills and ideas.
Of course, inspiration and the development of new ideas will continue and If you are interesting in hosting a workshop or demonstration please contact Steve to discuss your requirements at: [email protected]