Local Cupcakery Enters Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” By Robert Longoria Photo design by Jose L. Rodriguez
Entering headfirst into operating a cupcakery, McAllen native Sabrina Rodriguez never expected to enter Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.” RGV Cupcake Factory owners Sabrina, 27 and her sister Erica 31, recently had the opportunity to travel to Los Angeles to compete on “Cupcake Wars.” For those unfamiliar with the show, Food Network’s television program, “Cupcake Wars,” covers contestants from all over the United States competing cupcake vs. cupcake. According to the show’s website, “Each week on Cupcake Wars, four of the country’s top cupcake bakers face off in three elimination challenges until only one decorator remains.” For Rodriguez, the journey in competing for the top prize has been long and adrenalinefilled. But it all began with a dream, “My sister and I would travel to New York, Chicago, and around the U.S., and I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be awesome to open up a cupcake bakery in the Rio Grande Valley?’’’ For the next three years, her passion would remain a dream. In the interim, Sabrina had some several episodes of misfortune. Her husband collided into a near-fatal car accident, her best friend was afflicted with lupus, and she herself was diagnosed with cancer.
Eventually there was a breaking point. “Days after I finished my chemotherapy, my father went in to get a CAT scan for a cough he had. We found out that he had stage-four lung cancer, he had never smoked a cigarette in his life.” Within a few weeks, he passed away. “He was our biggest supporter, in everything…and suddenly he was gone. He always supported his family, doing everything he was supposed to do, raising two daughters, and then he died…” Left with nothing to lose, the Rodriguez sisters along with their best friend, Johanna Saenz, challenged fate head on. Over a span of two weeks they went into a construction phase: paying a lease, a new oven, and starting up the newly christened RGV Cupcake Factory. Their dream had begun. “After opening up the shop, we talked about how we could expand or grow, I said—fooling around— ‘I’m going to apply for Cupcake Wars,’” says Rodriguez. Going through link after link, Rodriguez finally applied for the show, but before receiving any notice, she read that the spots to compete in the “Cupcake Wars” had already been filled. Two days later though, a call from Food Network advised for one more application and a video describing the shop. “It was secretive and exciting,” Rodriguez said. Unsure as how to proceed and challenge with a deadline of 24 hours, the pressure began. Bottom line: “If you’re not interesting in the first thirty seconds, you’re not going on [the show],” Food Network told Rodriguez. With no previous experience on how to shoot the audition and no professional crew, the bakers relied on their own creativity to shine through. “We shot our video with a plain old camera but we sent it in anyways. After the deadline, [Food Network] called saying, ’the Executive Producer couldn’t stop laughing!’” Whisked to Los Angeles to shoot, Rodriguez and her sister spent a week of orientation in preparation for the show. Following the one day of filming, she describes the environment as “excitingly surreal” with a “fun environment.” The one word that sums up the competition? “Intense.”
Reflecting on her hopes for the episode, “We hope they make it clear we’re from the Rio Grande Valley, we want McAllen to be this gorgeous gem in South Texas, and just want for the episode to bring out the positive side of McAllen.” Through her own life experiences, Rodriguez remains adamant about pursuing personal passions. “I never had the push and shove to [live life] until something life-altering happened. If you’re going to take a chance, just do it. Work hard to play hard. Have a little plan in mind, and take in the experience.”
Entering headfirst into operating a cupcakery, McAllen native Sabrina Rodriguez never expected to enter Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars"...