A star decorator

Jennifer Matsubara grew up in Springdale, AR, where her bakery, Shelby Lynne's Cakes is located. One might think that after all this time, she's just another retail shop in the town's square. But not so much, thanks to seven appearances on Food Network Challenge.

It's just another Monday in her shop, and a customer walks through the door and shouts, "You're famous! Can I take a picture with you in front of your cakes?" Matsubara gives a friendly smile and gladly poses for and with the woman, who lives in a nearby town.

Matsubara's TV notoriaty hasn't gone to her head...it's only gotten her more excited about her business and her craft. While it's true that reality shows such as Challenge, Cake Boss and Ace of Cakes have elevated consumer expectations to often unrealistic proportions, Matsubara sees it as a challenge in her own right. For those who start off with high expectations, she takes in the whole "sky is the limit" idea and then works down to reality and budget. "The consumer is more aware today," she says. "I have some who come in and say, 'I really like what you did with that cake on Challenge...these are the colors, this is theme -- now go with it.' I love those, rather than just looking at the book and saying, 'Oh, I don't know.'"

Starring on television isn't Matsubara's endgame; it's just a reason to continue pushing her skill and creativity. She continues to learn and evolve by doing things such as enrolling in a sculpting class at the University of Arkansas. "I don't want to feel like I've plateaued," she says. "To me, the plateau means retirement. And I'm not there, yet." 

Keep your eye on Matsubara future Challenges -- the ink is still damp on a new contract for the upcoming season.