Growing up around her Italian family in Michigan, Michelle Bommarito— best known as a cake design guru on Food Network Challenge— learned to love being in the kitchen. As a child, she helped out on weekends at her family’s Italian Market, Bommarito Brothers CO, and just enjoyed being around food.
“Whenever I wasn’t at my dad’s store, I would be in the kitchen with my Mom and my grandparents,” she says. But she never thought food would be her life’s calling. Instead, her dream was to one day own a bed and breakfast in Europe. Michelle graduated with a Marketing Management major and a Psychology minor from the University of Michigan, and her first job out of college was for Marriott.
She resisted being around baking and cooking, but her heart kept being pulled in the direction of the kitchen. After working in the marketing and hotel business for years, Michelle decided to take a bread-making class, just for the fun of it.
“I didn’t think I was going to culinary school to change my career,” she says. “I thought it was to have that backbone and knowledge as a woman.”
After a nudge from a coworker to pursue cooking school, she attended The Institute of Culinary Education in New York. Then, she moved back to Michigan, and opened her own wedding and pastry business called Michelle Bommarito LLC.
It was a slow start; her first year she had just 17 wedding cakes. “But then, it grew to 35 and then to 55 a year. It just kept building,” she says. “Whatever you want to do, go out there and do it! Volunteer, do charity work; I can’t tell you how much charity work I did to get my name out there. I was doing what I loved even though I wasn’t getting paid.”
After running the business for 10 years, Michelle got the itch for something new. “I always loved what I did for a living,” Michelle says. “But then I started feeling that figurative tap on your shoulder, you know, that feeling that says ‘Hey, you are not doing exactly what you should be doing, ‘ I knew it was time for that transition, to take a risk.”
In 2009 she closed up shop and decided to try her hand as a traveling chef, teaching her vast knowledge of cake design, and also conducting “Eating Well” Speaking Engagements and Super Power Food Culinary Demonstrations. Years earlier (before she even opened her cake company), Michelle had found herself bed-ridden from working too much. “After about a couple months of putting up with it, my cousin took me under her wing and said, ‘Michelle, you’re going to my Holistic doctor,’” she says.
The doctor put her on an extreme diet that consisted of grains, lean cuts of meat, nuts, flaxseed oil and vegetables. After two weeks on the regimen, Michelle was filled with bouncing energy– and she’s kept up the healthy lifestyle for fifteen years. (Yes that’s right: the cake designer doesn’t eat cake–except of course to test each batch of her creations for quality, and the occasional “just a bite” at a party to celebrate!)
Making wellness her primary career focus was a natural progression. Says Michelle, “I just decided one day, I really think I’m supposed to follow in the wellness direction. I lived it for so long and I believed in it. It’s good for my body and it made me be who I am as far as my high energy.”
As for what’s next in Michelle’s life, only time can tell.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do next,” she said. “It happens to be every 10 to 12 years is when I evolve; ironically it’s what happens.”
Inspirational, that doesn’t even begin to describe this risk taker, but ambitious and courageous . . . that’s a start.
Needs some inspiration for taking the plunge in your career?
Check out The 9 steps of getting started the Bommarito style:
1. Find your strength and your passion.
2. Invest in your knowledge and skills.
3. Create your own style and niche.
4. Develop (figure out what is good for you to make you a success).
5. Impress quality in every aspect of your job, career or passion.
6. Not all business is good business, check who you will do business with.
7. Know your competition.
8. Price yourself correctly (competitively and accordingly to what’s right in the market).
9. Put yourself out there and market yourself.