Cheri Randall photo
Cheri Randall with the gingerbread house she designed for the District of Kitimat’s annual gingerbread house competition this year, which was designed around her workplace and her coworkers.

Cheri Randall photo Cheri Randall with the gingerbread house she designed for the District of Kitimat’s annual gingerbread house competition this year, which was designed around her workplace and her coworkers.

In Our Valley: Cheri Randall

Randall uses her creative side by designing food art, in particular large cakes and desserts

When it comes to making cakes, Cheri Randall sticks to the motto of ‘Go big or go home’.

Whether it’s sculptures, decorations, or simply an outside-the-box idea, the more creative the design, the more Randall loves it.

Randall said she grew up working part-time jobs in the food industry, which she really enjoyed, and had also often made food at home and for kids in her neighbourhood when she was younger. That, combined with her love of art and creativity paired well, and she began specializing in food art.

“I used to get in trouble for making homemade dough and [making] pizza using all the cheese in the house. I would sell it to the kids on my street per slice so I could make a little money to spend my time in the local arcade playing Foosball and games for the day,” Randall said. “I still make food and sell it to this day, I guess.”

Randall said she worked in health care for a while, but found it wasn’t allowing her to use her creativity as much, so decided to go back to the food industry.

“I always tend to go back to foods, because you can make stuff and create,” she said. “I’m overly creative in a lot of different things and working with food all the time, I found it inspirational to try to visually, you know, make a focal point on a banquet table or something.”

When she got into cake art and design, Randall started off doing crazy cakes for her friends’ kids. Slowly but surely, the cakes got bigger and bigger and, from there, she did wedding cakes in the Kitimat area for a while, as well.

“I just try to visually do something crazy that people go, ‘Oh my God, how’d you do that?’” she said. “I just like to create. I get that feeling and I need to, as an artist, try to get what I’m visualizing out. Whether it’s a feeling, you know, or something that I’ve seen that I want to tweak into mine, a function, try to customize it towards group of people if it’s their function.”

Randall said one time she did a five-tiered wedding cake, which turned out beautifully but was a lot of work and stress to make — and to travel with.

“It was the travelling that was most stressful,” she said, as trying to get her over-the-top designs from one location to another can result in disaster if she’s not careful.

“I think that might’ve been the last one I did,” she said, laughing. “And it lived!”

Randall said one of her favourite parts of creating food art is the responses she gets from the people seeing and eating the food.

“The best compliment is when half a room or people come up and they want to take a picture of it before they get their piece, or whatever. So yeah, it’s kind of cool,” she said. “Or somebody says ‘I don’t want to cut it!’ That too.”

Randall said she works best when she just has a vague seed of an idea of what the cake or food design should be or relate to, such as the event’s theme or something that’s special to the person she’s designing the cake for.

“I do best when somebody says, ‘Hey. Here’s this function, here’s a little seed, think about it, like, if you want to do something, do something’,” she said. “And I tend to go overboard and, yeah, make people go ‘Oh, I don’t want to cut into that!’ Yeah, that kind of thing.”

Randall said she is self-taught and learns as she goes, doing research as necessary along the way. She often tries out new tips and tricks, a recent one being sculptures formed out of Rice Krispies and marshmallow, and covered in molding chocolate.

She said her current project is a sculpture on a cake for New Year’s Eve at her place of work, where she works as a cook — but still makes cakes for them sometimes for special events.

“I want to do a sculpture because, one, it’s difficult. It’ll be cool to look at. It’s going to be oversized — and a pain in the butt for someone to cut!” she said, laughing. “Because that’ll be my day off, so I won’t be doing it.”

Randall said that, with COVID-19, she does miss doing desserts for banquets and events because she can’t go as as big with her designs.

“I do kind of miss, yeah, just going crazy.”

However, she’s still using the time to indulge her creative side, doing painting and other forms of art in her house. Randall said she loves trying new tips and tricks with painting, just like with her food art, and is currently working with abstract forms and techniques.

“That’s the thing: I’m a ‘master of none’, but I like to learn.”

She has also done work with plaster on canvases, adding a pop-out effect, and said it’s something she’d like to get back to.

Like with her food art, she said she likes putting her paintings and pieces up on her walls so others can see them when they come to her house.

“My house looked like one scene from Harry Potter, because I would paint them and I would hang them on the wall, just with a little tack, to dry them. So, up in my hallway I had, like the whole walls were full.”

Her most recent food art was a gingerbread house for the annual competition the District of Kitimat holds. This year, she entered in the “Businesses” category, and wanted to do a house representing her work and her coworkers to make it more personalized and fun.

“I started off with the people, so then I, once I got ready to make the gingerbread, I had realized I had to make the house even bigger because I made the people too big and it would’ve looked silly.”

She also took the house as an opportunity to continue learning, teaching herself house to make candy windows and doing her own patterns for the gingerbread.

She said the house included several inside jokes she has with her coworkers, which was fun for all of them to see when she brought it back to her workplace after the competition was over.

The person on the roof, for example, she said was a nod to one coworker because “that poor guy was up on our roof last year during a snowstorm, shovelling six feet off, trying to find a leak in our kitchen.”

She said she started early making the people, but it took about a week and a half to two weeks to finish the entire house once she started the gingerbread. She also had some fun playing around with the people and placing them around the scene.

“And then I had to add one,” she said. “Somebody got offended I didn’t make them.”

And thankfully her hard work paid off, as Randall won her category and got to take her house back to her place of workto show off as the prize.

Randall said the timing for projects usually depends on the project’s size, as well as the amount of detail she’s putting in

“I like details. Details take the longest. Could I get something big done in one shift? No!”

Going forward, Randall said she doesn’t know what her future projects are going to be after the New Year’s cake, as she tends to focus on one project at a time.

“I can only kind of concentrate on one thing at a time, 150 per cent. Yeah, I can’t really seem to do two at a time, I have to nail it down,” she said. “Once I get that feeling I’m nailing it down, I can usually pull it together and get it done, out, and next.”

She does know, though, that she’s just going to have fun with it and see what crazy ideas she can come up with next.

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