If you were to meet Linkie Marais, you would be drawn to more than her electric personality. Perhaps you would sit and stay to jot down recipes to her delicious curry and learn about her wedding cake design.
The former Ole Miss Catering employee recently had the chance to compete for her own show on Food Network Star. Though she was eliminated, she picks up where she left off and embraces the new opportunities that have opened up for her.
“It’s an amazing experience, and I will not trade it for the world,” Marias said. “At the end of the day, I’m still living the American Dream.”
On Food Network Star, Marais competed in individual and team competitions, working with both familiar and unfamiliar ingredients, in hopes of being the show’s winner, which would guarantee she would have her very own Food Network show. Being an artist at heart, Marais’ planned to indulge viewers in a step-by-step process of cake decorating on her show, all the way down to the intricate details such as icing fun and funky cakes.
“If I can teach people how to decorate wedding cakes, not just the very start of the process, and show the whole process and teach them what they need to make their own masterpiece at home, then I think that it’s something people would watch,” Marais said.
As a member of a competing team on Food Network Star, Marais said that she felt connected and in-tune with the other personalities. Though there were struggles with working in front of the camera and handling unfamiliar ingredients, Marias followed advice she learned from Giada De Laurentiis, her team leader.
“Giada told us: ‘The camera will suck the life out of you, so you’ve got to show that you’re having fun,’” Marias said.
Her focus for each dish, whether sweet or savory, was to create an artistic masterpiece.
“You start eating with your eyes,” Marais said. “To make it look like a work of art in texture and flavor, that’s what makes up your dish at the end of the day.”
As a native of South Africa, “a rich melting pot of so many different cultures” such as Indian and French, Marais grew up experimenting and learning to work with various spices used throughout the world.
“Mom taught us to cook a lot with the spicy ingredients,” Marais said. “When I cook now, I go back to my roots. I think ‘warm,’ those flavors that warm you up from the inside out: cumin, curry, coriander.”
At the age of 16, when her family moved to the United States, Marais began working under Billie Robinson, owner of Billie’s Catering and Mt. Vernon Place in Tupelo, Marais did every job she could to gain experience. From baking cakes, cooking, decorating functions, and serving at functions, Marais did it all.
“Linkie is by far one of the most talented people I’ve ever met in so many aspects, not just cake decorating or cooking,” Robinson said. “I realized right away that she had a knack. You can study as much as you want to, but if you don’t have a natural ability, what we do is hard.”
Marais claims she would not have made it to where she is today if it weren’t for the help she received while working with Robinson and at Ole Miss Catering.
“I loved Ole Miss Catering,” Marais said. “I loved Ole Miss period. I had chefs that believed in me. I had support from the whole campus. They gave me an experience that would help me in my field.”
One of those chefs, Roland Schnider, Interim Catering Director and previous chef at Ole Miss, recalls the cheerful atmosphere and talent that came with working with Marais.
“She was such an easy and cheerful person to work with,” Schnider said. “From her nature, that is somebody I would watch on TV.”
With cheerful spirits, Marais continues toward her cake decorating dreams.
“I have many opportunities that I will explore, and I am very excited to see what the future holds,” she said while experiencing “fun times and good eats” filming the season finale of Food Network Star in New York City. Right now, her biggest pressure “is to see what the next step is.” She has had plenty of opportunities and wants to “do the right thing and make the right decisions.”
“It’s like ‘Make your decisions for your life right now!’” she said. “I’m growing up fast.”
As she explores her choices, she remembers the advice Giada gave her: “People will accept you for who and what you are if you believe in yourself.”
Marais also plans to hold cake decorating workshops. Check out her website to register for workshops or browse through her cake gallery at linkiecakes.com.
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