Clare Crespo

Trendsetter Clare Crespo takes the cake…the cupcake. A legend in cupcake circles, her book Hey There, Cupcake! 35 Yummy Fun Cupcake Recipes for All Occasions is a bestseller amongst cupcakistas, and foodies generally. Here she describes how she first defined her work, then her space, then took it from fantasy to reality via her two-car garage in Silverlake, CA.

I started playing with my food when most people do, in childhood. After a windy path through Louisiana and Texas and Italy, I ended up in Los Angeles at Cal Arts getting a Masters in experimental animation.

After having some jobs in some pretty nice offices (including producing piles of music videos), I realized that while I had a good job that was fun and challenging and lucrative, none of it was really mine. I was doing this funny sculptural cooking at home that was important in my everyday life and it felt good; maybe I could make other people feel good too. I wanted to inspire and encourage folks to be creative and express themselves in their everyday ordinary actions. Soon I found myself with the kitchen as my studio figuring out how to make a new career. I made a website with animated cartoons of my recipes called Make a sandwich and tell the world who you are. A book deal showed up and The Secret Life of Food was born.

And I guess to prove that I practice what I preach I decided to produce the photos in my home. I didn’t want the pictures taken in a studio. I wanted them to be in my life. With the food stylist Lisa Barnett, I made all of the food in my house. Eric Staudenmaier shot all the little tableaus. The house was completely transformed into some kind of mad scientist’s photo studio. Then came Hey There, Cupcake!

From my home office I continued to toy with business ideas that would make my dream grow more branches.

I designed food for a Spongebob Squarepants episode. I cooked my wackiest creations on the Today show, Good Morning America, CBS Sunday Morning, and many, many Food Network shows. I wrote recipes for magazines and books. I considered a brick and mortar bakery but thought it might squash my spirit, so I started the renegade pop-up bakery Treat Street with Crystal Meers and Mary Wigmore.

But I had always wanted to do a show. The Food Network asked me to do a traditional cook-in-the-kitchen cooking show. But I had a new daughter at the time and I wasn’t so interested in leaving her every day to go to some soundstage; and honestly, I wanted to do a really crazy fantasy kids show with puppets and a band and animation. So I gathered friends from the music video days (including my nice talented production designer husband, James Chinlund) and made it happen. Choosing NOT to follow anyone’s advice, we built a set in my two-car garage and created The Yummyfun Kooking Series. The DVDs have sold well in places like The New Museum, The Whitney, and Amazon.

And now, low and behold, the production company Fremantle Media has decided that they like Yummyfun too and will produce an episode. I am now working on Yummyfun with a writer and producers and all sorts of nice talented people. This time we won’t be in my garage and it has been a little struggle for me to figure out how that’s going to work, but I am ultimately excited to have a little more space. I still have my home office filled with petrified Jaws cookies, glitter, leopard cupcake liners, three million cake sprinkles and other assorted art supplies. And I have my kitchen where I can do my work and play with my food.