By Robert Swart on April 23, 2022
For the past 13 years, Mark Gresham, a “Seriously Creative and Talented Baker”, has been satisfying the tastebuds of Philadelphia as a baker and chef. A pure culinary delight for every occasion.
“What makes Gresh the Chef’s Gourmet Goodies (sometimes called GTC for short) different is that I care for my clients and of course my personality. It is more than just a business to me, customers become my extended family.
I have a chair and table in front for you to sit down while you wait for your cake to be brought to you. We might offer you a beverage or something and the real talking starts when I bring the cake out and you see it. I always try to find the backstory of why they’ve ordered the cake. Nobody has ever just picked up a cake and left.
I like to talk to people when they order a cake. Sometimes they want me to add things and I may have some suggestions. People know that they can order a cake up to two days in advance, except for wedding cakes.
Everybody goes crazy about my Strawberry Good Humor Cheesecake. It’s an epic cake and people just seem to love it. I do more conventional popular cakes like carrot cake or birthday cakes. I have a little bit of an abstract artist streak inside of me and I like to be a little more creative especially with birthday cakes, and they taste as good as they look. Although the cake may be the same inside i.e. a carrot cake, it will always look different outside.
I do make cakes for diabetics, many sugar-free cakes, vegan cakes, gluten-free cakes, etc. I found there is quite a demand for these types of cakes.
I am so personally invested with every cake that leaves my house, that I turn into a wreck if the feedback doesn’t come quickly, I got to know what the verdict is, do they love it or not. Only then can I relax.
I started as a culinary chef and that has never left me. I will cater for any event with not more than 75 to 100 people such as weddings, sweet sixteen, funerals, birthdays, events, and even sweetheart or family dinners in the privacy of your own home. I supply everything, even tableware and items to set the scene and atmosphere. I do some preparations at home and then prepare the meal in the customer’s kitchen. During the holidays I will do smoked turkeys and holiday cakes and pies.”
Mark Gresham’s unique approach has also earned him rave reviews from his clients as can be seen from some of the reviews below.
“I’ve ordering custom cakes from GTC for the last 9 years and he never disappoints. Cakes are always elegant, playful and just plain delicious! I highly recommend you give him a try. You won’t regret it.” – Shannon BigExclusive Reynolds
“These are my 2 favorite cakes. The legendary and Iconic ‘Good Humor Cake’ and the amazing ‘Banana Pudding’ LISTEN!!! These aren’t your average these are something special. There’s something about the taste that just stands out and is soooooooo good. Definitely my go to…. GTC is incredible” – Juan Sanchez
“The best sweet potato cheese cake in Philadelphia” – Dontay Bruce
Mark, the owner of Gresh the Chef’s Gourmet Goodies, was born and raised in South Philadelphia. He has three brothers and a sister and is blessed with about 18 nieces and nephews, and guess what, he is their favorite uncle because there are always treats in Mark’s house.
Mark is what we like to call a Local Biz Hero, a self-made entrepreneur who brings true value to his community. High standards of professionalism and the strong work ethics of small business owners like Mark are the foundation of the Philadelphia economy. He is heavily involved in his community and is like the captain of the block.
Mark ensures that the community has an excellent relationship with the police and firemen at the Fire Station down the block. Once a year, the community has a police and firemen appreciation day. Mark normally makes up bags of goodies and treats and then the kids in the community are involved to take the bags to the Fire Station and hand them over. Through this Mark wants to keep the communication lines open between the police, firemen, and community. Mark says that it is important for the kids to understand that there are good firemen and policemen, and they can go to them when they need help.
Every year during August, Mark is involved in the community outreach day in Chester. The outreach is health-based and attracts sponsors like Pepsi, Coca-Cola and many local businesses. There are many giveaways and the community in Chester can check their blood pressure, etc.
The pandemic has put a stop to all these outreach programs. The last outreach had about 365 people and Mark was on the grill from seven in the morning till three o’clock in the afternoon. Wherever Mark can lend a hand, he is willing to pitch in his abilities, skills, and support.
We sat down with Mark for a quick interview –
Q: Why do you do what you do?
A: “My father was what you could call an amateur chef and I had an interest in cooking from about the age of seven. I always sat in the kitchen with my mom, dad, and grandma asking questions about mixing ingredients and just cooking in general. I always thought it was magic watching my mom go into the kitchen and turn three ingredients into something yummy.
I was in the Junior Cook Club at my church and by the time I was in grade 8, I was President of the Cooking Club. I always had this passion for cooking since I was younger and all I wanted to do my entire life was to cook and write poetry.
Today, if I don’t bake a cake, I will go crazy, it’s my therapy. Many times, I’ll bake things and give them to my neighbors, especially when we first went into quarantine. I was just going crazy and then I said to myself, I am going to perfect my yeast recipe and start making all kinds of cinnamon buns like cherry, cheesecake, cinnamon, and apple and just giving it away to my neighbors. Well, that was until my neighbor told me to stop because her husband has gained five pounds.
I am constantly researching and testing new recipes, techniques, and trends that I find on YouTube and putting my twist on it”
Q: How did you get into this profession?
A: “I went to Edward Bok Vocational Technical School that had a culinary arts program. One of the most esteemed restaurants in Philadelphia at the time was the Le Bec-Fin Restaurant and they had sponsored a culinary division. I was fortunate to be working as an intern at the restaurant during the eighties. I had brilliant teachers and they have woken my passion for things I didn’t even know I had a passion for. This was where I have realized that I don’t want to cook, I want to create – I don’t like to follow recipes but like to create recipes.
After graduation in 1987, I have worked as the head chef at one of Mike Smith’s restaurants for many years. One day I saw how much money he was making and that was my aha moment. I realized that I need to be my boss and make that kinda money for myself. It took another eight years before that dream came to fruition. It happened when it was supposed to happen not when I wanted it to. If it happened earlier, I probably would have been too young and not as dedicated as I am now. Now I’m more dedicated and I love what I do because it’s my therapy.
One day one of my customers told me that my food is excellent, but my cakes are better, and that I should bake more cakes. At first, I thought it was an insult but then I embraced it and start baking all kinds of confections, cakes, donuts, candy apples, and I was set up.
The front of my house was turned into a Willy Wonka with balloons and desserts. People walking buy at first thought this guy is nuts but then people start buying and then they buy some more and before long the business just took off. When I start putting my cakes and treats on social media it took on a life of its own.
I got invitations to do city events from the mayor, and councilman and it just escalated from there. Every weekend I would put up banners in front of my house and if there was a special event such as Valentine’s or Thanksgiving, I would decorate the front accordingly and sell like pumpkin pie, sweet potato pies, and types of bags and stuff.
It is such a humble feeling when people you don’t know call you and ask you to make their wedding cake. They put this enormous amount of trust in your abilities because they saw pictures of some of your cakes on social media or from friends.
After seven years my home kitchen got too small for the business, and I had to open a shop. I shared a shop with another chef in the Northern Liberties area. She worked from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and I have the kitchen from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Business was good, but it all changed after Fox News did a report on me with the subsequent swell in new business. She decided because I am doing so well, to almost double my portion of the monthly rent. Unbeknown to me I didn’t realize that she didn’t pay the monthly rent to the landlord and before long we were evicted. It was the perfect spot, and I would have kept it if I could afford it. So, in 2017 it was back to working out of my home kitchen.
That is how I got my career started selling in front of my door and setting up shop in front of my door.”
Q: Being a baker and chef, Mark works directly with many people, and we asked him what’s the most unusual situation that ever happened to him on the job?
A: “A situation that comes to mind, was this guy that approached me and asked me to bake him two cakes. The one cake must say “I love you babe, always and forever, your husband”. The other cake was for his girlfriend and was covered with roses, no messages only a heart with her name. I said what, you want me to bake you an anniversary cake for your wife and bake a cake for your girlfriend. He was serious.”
Q: If you could share one tip with the readers for choosing a baker, what would it be?
A: “I will start with my research on Google looking for bakers that bake for your specific type of event. I would read what they are about, look at their pictures, and reviews and draw up a list. Always read the comments because pictures don’t tell you how good the cake is, it is the comments that give you some insight into whether the cake was good, dry, moist, fantastic, and importantly whether they would buy from that baker again.
Next, I will reach out to the bakers on the shortlist. I would tell them what kind of event I am planning what I had in mind. During this conversation, the baker may come up with some ideas and suggestions and it becomes a creative collaboration. If you feel uncomfortable during this collaboration process or the baker wants to force his ideas upon you, rather find another baker because chances are you will not be happy with the result. Choose a baker you feel a connection with and can feed ideas off each other.
Remember it is important for the baker to grasp what you are looking for and this collaboration process provides more clarity in the baker’s mind, more than what a picture can give the baker. Through the conversation the baker will also get a feeling whether the decorations must be elaborate or conservative, can he add specific fillings between the layers like strawberries and cream, etc.”
Q: What do you love about your community/city?
A: “I love the sense of community. Although my community represents many nationalities, races, and religious beliefs, we are like one big family, and we have an annual block party amongst other community events throughout the year. It feels like everybody knows everybody from forever although some may have just moved in during the past year or two.
The community has a real sense of caring for each other’s wellbeing and property, and people are very generous with each other, with their time, with their skills, and things you need.”
For those of you who are looking for a master professional baker for any occasion, Mark should be your first choice. Gresh the Chef’s Gourmet Goodies (GTC) supports our first-line responders with a 10% discount to military, police, firemen, nurses, and doctors. While waiting for Mark’s website to go active, you can visit his Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/GTC-Gourmet-Goodies-100183472580872, call Mark at (267) 319-0400, or email him at email@example.com – a Seriously Creative Baker!
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