Raised in a family that often gathered for social meals, Amanda J. Smith picked up an interest in cooking at an early age. Later, she cultivated her talents at Le Cordon Bleu in Orlando and studied under chefs such as CulinAero's Doug Kieley, who she names as a mentor. After deciding to launch her own business, Amanda outfitted a mobile catering trailer with a gourmet kitchen capable of food preparation onsite at parties or during highway drag races.
"I have everything I need at my fingertips to create all kinds of fresh, flavorful meals," she told Southern Family magazine this year. Those meals range from bacon-wrapped beef tenderloins and ornate spreads of sliced ham to petite cheesecake bites topped with berries. Amanda also sets up culinary stations at events so guests can select their own hors d'oeuvres or sample sweets arranged around a chocolate fountain.
Gleaning her baking skills from her mother and grandmother, Gigi's Cupcakes' eponymous owner opened her first cupcake hub in 2008, drawing upon her entrepreneurial spirit and gift for crafting beautifully topped cupcakes. The franchised cupcakery now has 50 locations, each of which churns out 12 daily-rotating flavors that are made fresh every morning. The shop's selection of more than 40 flavors includes Canadian Maple, Southern Comfort, and Champagne—a bubbly-flavored base topped with an edible pearl. Patrons can pick out sweet treats from the daily selection or preorder them at least one day in advance online, by phone, or via singing telegram.
ABC Bartending School invites budding cocktail chemists to gain hands-on experience, mixing, stirring, and shaking under the tutelage of seasoned industry experts. During the four-hour mixology workshop, guests learn the basics of alcoholic alchemy, blending liquors and mixers into sippable sensations. Workshops are divided into five sections, training amateur aperitif-crafters in the science of mixing, the components of liquors, equipment and bar setup, and how to pick the freshest garnishes from behind-the-bar garnish trees. All course completers enjoy access to a Cheers dimension that currently, due to spatial fluctuations, contains only Cliff Clavins.
Chef and instructor Kelly Viall returned to her hometown of Birmingham after 15 years of whipping up fresh-fish dishes in Seattle and along the Gulf Coast. Now hundreds of miles from a coast, she still clings to her passion for ocean-fresh seafood and teaches students to master a variety of culinary techniques. She also offers catering options, giving food art lovers a chance to have a marine Louvre brought to them.
For more than 25 years, Chef Bob has relied on real butter, milled cake flour, and farm-fresh milk and eggs to craft each of his made-from-scratch cakes. Though baking for confectioneries and coffee shops remains his passion, Chef Bob also flexes his culinary muscles by catering special events. He once cooked a southern-style meal for more than 6,000 guests at the US Naval Academy, through which he earned a private visit to the White House and a chance to inspect its fabled collection of Grover Cleveland–shaped eggplants.
Chef Bob also regularly shares cooking tips as a guest on WBRC Fox 6, and enlivens functions with custom cakes and ice sculptures. In addition, his cooking classes and demonstrations embolden students to try their hand at kitchen fundamentals or elaborate Ginzu-knife juggling routines. Though he loves sharing his expertly made sweets, he remains committed to promoting balanced diets with his portion-controlled Fit2Eat program.