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July 11, 2018

Marshall pastry chef creates “little pieces of art”

Photo/Don Del Rosso
After studying psychology for 18 months, Marium Caternolo chose a new path and earned an associate’s degree in culinary arts.
Contributed Photo
Ms. Caternolo made this “Blueberry-Lavender Naked Cake” for a birthday party in May.
Contributed Photo
“These little mini cakes were for my very good friend Betsy Dolphin of Delaplane Cellars,” the chef explains on her Facebook page. “This cake began as a quick idea for a menu item and has evolved into Betsy’s Basil Cake with Orange Buttercream, Vanilla poached Apricots, Strawberry Macarón and Johnny-Jumps!”
I’ve become almost like this overnight success — like the stories you hear. It’s just kind of taken off, and I’m just riding the wave.
— Bakery owner Marium Caternolo
Cakes by Marium
• What: Wedding and event cakes and pastry bakery. 

• Address: 8369 W. Main St., Marshall.

• Owner: Marium Caternolo.

• Details: Bakery operates a commercial kitchen in a small stone building next to Field & Main restaurant; produces desserts for clients and Field & Main’s dinner and brunch menus; no on-site retail component; owned by restaurant, stone building previously housed Riccordino’s, a sandwich shop.

• Facebook page: Click here
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Staff Journalist
The Marshall pastry chef’s passion for making sweet things started at her mother’s elbow.

“I just kind of watched my mom doing it,” recalled Marium Caternolo, owner of Cakes by Marium on Main Street in Marshall. “And I would start to bake things, because it was easy.

“I’d be home and I’d be hungry. I’d look in the cabinets. We always had flour and sugar and shortening.”

Intuitively, and through observation, Ms. Caternolo developed a knack for combining those and other ingredients.

The 28-year-old upstate New York native in January opened her bakery in a small stone structure next to Field & Main restaurant that had housed Riccordino’s, a take-out shop specializing in “Chicago-style” hot sandwiches.

Field & Main owns the structure, which contains a commercial kitchen.

As pastry consultant for the restaurant, Ms. Caternolo uses the kitchen to prepare all the restaurant’s deserts, including ice cream and sorbet, and to fill her customers’ orders.

For now, the bakery has no retail component of its own. Her customers pick up or she delivers cakes, French macarons, cake pops, cookies and a wide range of pastries.

Retailers such as the Delaplane Cellars winery and Marshall’s Whole Ox butcher shop also carry her pastries and cakes.

Ms. Caternolo, who does a brisk wedding and events business, also supplies desserts to Poplar Springs Spa & Inn near Casanova in Southern Fauquier.

“I like the direction” of the business, she said. “It’s really growing. I’ve become almost like this overnight success — like the stories you hear. It’s just kind of taken off, and I’m just riding the wave.”

In May alone, Ms. Caternolo sold 30 cakes. That, plus the pastry work, produced almost $7,000 in revenue.

The Clarke County resident logs 60 to 65 hours a week, including 20 hours for Field & Main.

“From the moment my eyes open to the moments my eyes close – even in my dreams — I’m working,” Ms. Caternolo adds with a sigh and a laugh.

She discovered her career “path” in a roundabout way.

In 2008 and ’09, Ms. Caternolo studied psychology at Northern Virginia Community College’s Manassas and Annandale campuses.

But she quickly grew impatient with the sedentary life of a student.

“Just couldn’t write the papers. I couldn’t sit down at a desk. So I dropped out.”

An online advertisement for The Arts Institute in Arlington caught her attention. Specializing in pastry, she earned an associate’s degree from the institute in 2011.

After working for several bakeries and restaurants, Ms. Caternolo became The Ashby Inn & Restaurant’s pastry chef in 2014.

“That’s where I really took everything that I had learned from the bakery and everything I had learned from the different restaurants and put together two and two,” she said of The Ashby Inn at Paris in Northern Fauquier. “That’s really where I started building my own portfolio. That’s where I developed signature dishes.”

For various reasons, Ms. Caternolo left the restaurant in 2016 to work for a Front Royal-based wedding catering company.

Last year, she left that job to work as Field & Main’s pastry consultant. Restaurant owners Neal and Star Wavra played a key role in helping her launch the bakery business.

Under a novel agreement, Ms. Caternolo uses the commercial kitchen in the old stone house at no cost to produce desserts for her customers.

In exchange, she commits 20 hours per week — without pay — to providing all of Field & Main’s pastry needs.

“I had literally, on a silver platter, a kitchen given to me,” said Ms. Caternolo, a single parent with a 2-year-old son. “I went home that day, and I cried.”

“We’re fortunate to have Marium as part of our team,” Mr. Wavra said. “She has a certain artistic eye about her and a capability to create things that are both tasty and beautiful.

“She’ll take things that are relatively relegated to savory items — vegetables and herbs — and bring them into the dessert realm. And that’s really neat.”

With the addition of Cakes by Marium, Marshall has three bakeries, including Red Truck Rural Bakery and Gentle Harvest, which employs a full-time pastry chef.

Ms. Caternolo believes the area market and beyond can support all three West Main Street operations.

Laila Asbergs, marketing communications director for Gentle Harvest, agrees.

“I definitely think that there’s plenty of room in Marshall for everyone,” Ms. Asbergs said.

Besides, she doesn’t view Cakes by Marium as “direct” competition.

Unlike, Cakes by Marium, Gentle Harvest’s bakery focuses largely on serving the store’s customers and providing desserts for Hunter’s Head Tavern in Upperville.

Sandy Lerner, who opened Gentle Harvest in 2016, also owns Hunter’s Head.

“From what I understand, their business model, the cakes — being specialty cakes — are for events, weddings, parties, etcetera,” Ms. Asbergs suggested. “That’s very different from we offer.

“We don’t have tiered cakes that are designed specifically for weddings or anything like that.”

T. Gambino, a chef who has owned two restaurants and worked for others during the last three decades, began buying cakes, cookies and pastry from Ms. Caternolo about six months ago.

“Her work is remarkable,” said Ms. Gambino, who lives near Marshall. “The flavor is consistent; the detail is outstanding. Her cakes are little pieces of art.

“If I still had my restaurant, you can bet your bottom dollar she would be making all of my pastries.”

Ms. Caternolo hopes to open a storefront bakery in Marshall within four years.

“Now that I’ve got my foot in the door, and I’m kind of here, I would like to stay,” she said. “I’ve had so much success — beyond belief. And I’m really thankful, mostly for the town and, obviously, Neal and Star (Wavra). They’ve given me everything.”
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BJ · July 11, 2018 at 3:51 pm
Best of luck with your new endeavor! Can there ever be too many bakeries in this world?? We all could use a little sweet in our lives right now!
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