"It was a blessing to me. Grueling but worth it."
So says local bakery owner Myrtle Jackson about her experience on Bakery Rescue, the TLC show where Cake Boss chef Buddy Valastro brings a Kitchen Nightmares/Restaurant Impossible-style makeover to a struggling business. The show, previously known as Bakery Boss, also filmed an episode in which Valastro helped revive Drew's Pastry Place in northwest Houston.
In Tuesday night's episode, Valastro found Jackson's bakery, Third Ward's Not Jus' Donuts, in pretty sad shape. With problems that included a lack of exterior signage, a broken air conditioner that made proper cake decorating virtually impossible and constant fighting between Jackson's daughters Andrea and Rosharon, Valastro had his work cut out for him.
"There were some scenes I was worried about. They showed the part that was my heart."
To fix the problems, Valastro worked with Jackson and her daughters on a number of fronts. First, he encouraged the women to expand their custom cake business that would bring in more revenue than regular day to day sales and taught them new techniques to make their cakes more appealing to brides.
“One of the things that impressed me about Not Jus' Donuts was the fact that Myrtle, Andrea and Rosharon were already pretty good cake decorators," Valastro said. "They sold some custom birthday cakes, but they weren’t getting many high end wedding cake clients. I really wanted to emphasize to them that they needed to focus on doing more wedding cakes. They had the skills to serve those clients.”
Then, he found a way to get Andrea and Rosharon to stop squabbling and work together. Finally, the show completely renovated the space with a new air conditioner as well as a host of equipment upgrades.
For her part, Jackson feels good about the way the show portrayed her family. "There were some scenes I was worried about," she says. "They showed the part that was my heart."
The show filmed Not Jus' Donuts in November, which meant the Jackson family had to wait until now to receive the full benefit of publicity. "We were expecting (the show) to air earlier. It was kind of disappointing, but we prayed to hold out," Jackson says.
Thankfully, she reports that the first day after the show aired was "off the chain . . . Everybody saw the show, and they loved it!"
Drew's Pastry Place owner Drew Rogers helped them prepare by offering advice about the crowds that swarmed his bakery after his episode aired. The Not Jus' Donuts team printed up T-shirts and mugs to give their new patrons extra items to buy.
For the most part, Jackson reports that she's kept Valastro's changes, including new items like banana pudding, chocolate peanut butter cake and a new donut-shaped cake that Valastro hoped would become Not Jus' Donuts new signature item.
However, she's brought back the clamshell plastic cases for individual slices that Valastro disdained. Citing Houston's humidity, Jackson says the packaging "keeps them fresher to me."
How does she sum up her time in the spotlight?
"It has been an experience," she says.
Yes, eagle-eyed viewers will have spotted me in the photo shoot scene standing beside Valastro and local photographer Julie Soefer. Sadly, the rest of my contributions were left on the cutting room floor, but at least Valastro touted CultureMap as "the number one social website in all of Houston, Texas." A celebrity endorsement never hurts, right?
Not Jus' Donuts is counting on that.