I fell in love with the restaurant business at age 12, when I first saw Casablanca. And, while there aren’t any iconic scenes of Rick and Ilsa sharing cupcakes, it’s not hard to imagine that taking place at a Parisian café! While I still claim Casablanca as my favorite movie of all time, it was many more years before I found myself actively following in Rick’s footsteps in the restaurant business. Meanwhile, I struggled to learn as much as I could about all things culinary from my mother’s kitchen (ham and potato casserole to die for), my grandmother’s kitchen (scrapple and shoofly pie!) and even our next door neighbor’s kitchen (homemade fudge every weekend!). It took me years to realize that what I really loved was providing people with moments of camaraderie and joy that only arise around a table.
Fast forward through more than twenty years in the restaurant business. The lessons I learned from the people I worked with were priceless – principal among them was that the quality of your customer’s experience was paramount. If you wanted to make people truly happy, you had to work really hard and never cut corners. I experienced that dedication to quality across so many different venues – everything from soft serve ice cream and pulled pork barbeque to dry aged prime steaks and tiny perfect spheres of Osetra caviar. Cost wasn’t really relevant, it was about passion and commitment.
I have no idea how many cupcakes we made over the two or three years that preceded our opening, but it was hundreds. Thousands. All the time, we just kept looking for that moment, when you close your eyes and say “Wow.” All this time later, we hope we can provide some of those moments for you. As the fantastic Julia Child would say, “Bon Appetit!”
- Extraordinary TV: Doctor Who, Star Trek (the original)
- Extraordinary movies: Casablanca, The Godfather, The Holy Grail, the first Star Wars movie
- Extraordinary books: Anything by H.P. Lovecraft, Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, The Bourne Identity, Black Arrow
- Extraordinary things: Yankee baseball, white truffles, solar eclipses
- Extraordinary places: Yankee Stadium and everywhere or anywhere in NYC, Paris, Negril, Macchu Picchu
- Extraordinary people: Ghandi, Einstein, Dom Perignon, Brillate-Savarin, Derek Jetter
- Extraordinary causes/organizations: Meals on Wheels, Green Peace, Doctors Without Borders, Slow Food
Dyana McGlothlin Steely
I bought my first cookbook when I was in Elementary School at a book fair. I still have it and it still has the best recipe for sugar cookies that I have ever tasted. My mother was a great cook when I was growing up, even though I didn’t always appreciate her menu choices (No Mom, salmon should never come out of a can). Whenever she made biscuits or cornbread, I was always watching and waiting for a mixing beater or left over dough. I thought I was just waiting for a treat but it is there that I learned the basics of baking.
Later, when our neighbors, the Opitz’s, moved in, they would invite me over to make holiday cookies. The recipes were handed down from family in Germany. They had a large kitchen and it was in full production mode during those days. They made hundreds of cookies each season and they were amazing. Getting those cookies each year was my favorite thing about Christmas. From that, I learned the power of the link of great food to memory. I haven’t had those cookies in 25 years but I know exactly how each of those cookies smells, feels, and tastes and every Christmas, it is the one thing missing from the season for me.
Fast forward a million years to when I met Cathy Arevian. Cathy is a dear friend who knows no fear when it comes to, well, anything really. It is not unusual to be invited to dine with Cathy and Lee at their home only to have Cathy announce that she is “trying a new recipe” for making macarons, baumkuchen, croquembouche, or baklava. My favorite is the night she made hazelnut and chocolate soufflés for the first time. An ordinary person would never attempt to do such difficult culinary feats for a dinner party. Most ordinary people definitely would not choose the night of the party to try the recipe for the first time. Cathy is not an ordinary person. She embraces every aspect of her life like a Jack Russell Terrier with a rope toy. She is passionate, strong, demanding, loyal, intelligent, kind, generous, and brave. It is that passion for life that she includes in every macaroon, baumkuchen, croquembouche, baklava, and soufflé she whips up. From Cathy, I learned bravery, at least in the kitchen. I still won’t “try a new recipe” to sell that day but it is Cathy’s example that led me to believe that Extraordinary Cupcakes was possible.
- Extraordinary movies: The Quiet Man, To Catch a Thief, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Brigadoon, Somewhere in Time, anything starring Cary Grant (va va va voom), Hugo, 50 First Dates, The Princess Bride, Moulin Rouge.
- Extraordinary books: The Wall and the Wing
- Extraordinary Things: Cathy Waterman Jewelry, Wicked on Broadway, and the Moon.
- Extraordinary Places: Whitehead Island, Maine, Healdsburg, California, Cupar, and Oban Scotland, and Williamsburg, Virginia – where else can you be shopping in Target and have the person in line behind you dressed in full colonial attire?
- Extraordinary people I wish I knew: Neil deGrasse Tyson, Guy Crosby, Ellen DeGeneres, Leonardo DiCaprio, Elon Musk, Michio Kaku, Robert De Niro, and Dame Judi Dench
- World’s Most Extraordinary Dog: Holly GoLightly (1996 – 2013)
- Extraordinary causes/organizations: Feeding America, Appalachia Service Project , No Kid Hungry – Share Our Strength, Assateague Foster Horse Program, Heifer International, Project HOPE – Virginia, and of course your local SPCA or shelter – please give generously.
- My Current Extraordinary Obsession: Sumo Oranges, Fish and Chips from Waypoint RestaurantExtraordinary TV: I don’t think I am an anglophile but I LOVE British television shows. Doctor Who, Downton Abbey, As Time Goes By, Doc Martin, Mr. Selfridge, The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Detectorists, Occupied, London Spy, and Broadchurch are just some of the amazing shows from the BBC. I also love America’s Test Kitchen, Elementary, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Longmire, Murdoch Mysteries, and of course, Cosmos – A Space Time Odyssey.
If the name sounds familiar, it is. Dale is Dyana’s brother. And before you think nepotism, let us say that Dale is the brother who got all the smarts, talent (he paints, writes, sings, cooks, and basically creates anything and everything), and the whole enchilada. Growing up, he was Dyana’s mentor, teacher, role model, and protector. Now all grown up, he started his own marketing and PR company, Sea Change Global, and of course, he’s great at that too so who else would we beg, er ask, to market our new venture but the best. Dale is responsible for all the press we get. If you know about us (and you must since you’re reading this), thank Dale. So pick up a car sticker, he created those too. To contact Dale for your next extraordinary business venture, email him or go to the Sea Change Global Website.
We call Cathy our “Peep on the Street” which now that we’ve written it, that sounds a little nasty but what she does is keep us current on new flavors and trends in cupcakes and restaurants (décor, themes, menus, and such). She is always on the move and travels extensively for business and leisure. You won’t find her in the same place for more than a week at a time. You can thank Cathy and her husband, Lee, for introducing us to the cupcake shop that set the bar for ours. Once we went there, every cupcake we made had to be as good as or better than theirs. Cathy and Lee own an event planning and trade show management company based in DC and NYC. To contact them, visit The Bridge Group website.
Ryan is our Tech Guru and our Youth Outreach Coordinator, in other words, he lets us know what the younger generation is plugged into as far as technology and food goes. It’s an old dogs and new tricks kinda thing. I’d provide you with his contact info but he’s so ahead of the technology the rest of us are using that your phone wouldn’t be able to reach him.
Lee Arevian is a silent giant. OK so he’s not so much a giant as Dyana is really short. And OK so he’s not silent as much as he doesn’t babble on like Cathy and Dyana do when they are together so when he says something, it is well thought out, truthful, and to the point. So you’d better listen.
Dyana used to work for Lee as a Trade Show Manager before she decided to follow her heart into teaching. When Cathy and Lee hired Dyana, she was a happy introvert and on a spiral path to Hobbit-dom. If you’re going to be a Trade Show Manager, you have to know how to deal with two things: people and fire. You have to talk to a lot of people, be the center of attention at meetings and while using a microphone on the trade show floor (Dyana used to look for curtains to hide behind) and you have got to Got To GOT TO know how to efficiently, immediately, and quietly put out every kind of fire you can imagine and some you have never in your wildest dreams imagined because those are nightmares and you wake up screaming in terror from those. And if you work for Lee, you need to do it on ice skates with a floor plan in one hand, a prospectus in the other, and a genuine smile on your face. Make it look effortless. While Dyana never got the ice skating down she learned some valuable lessons about people and business and fire.
It is because of these lessons and experiences that Dyana went on to become the teacher she is and then to open Extraordinary Cupcakes while juggling a teenager, husband, and 114 students. Dyana is forever grateful to Cathy and Lee for taking a chance on her, for believing in her, and for changing the path she was on so she didn’t end up as “That crazy lady at the end of the street who never comes out of her house” and instead became the original Girl on Fire even if it was only on the trade show floor. They called her Katniss (no they didn’t).
Oh My God
This is Oh My God. He owns Happy or at least he is Happy’s spiritual advisor. His greatest accomplishment with Happy thus far is teaching him patience. We are all in awe of this feat. God belonged to Happy’s daughter, HappyAnn, and upon her passing from this world to the next adventure, was passed on to Happy. He is as much a mystery as Happy himself. When you look into his eyes, you can feel a greater presence than this small sweet dog as if HappyAnn hasn’t truly gone on to that next adventure but perhaps is still here teaching all of us patience and understanding. Whatever the truth, we loved having this little dog here while Happy was painting and we miss that sweet face each time we open the door and he isn’t curled up in his little bed ignoring all the chaos around him.