As a teenager on Beals Island, Doug Alley earned money by baking vanilla and chocolate birthday and wedding cakes.
Today, the almost 50-year-old is baking for a living. But, his cakes are custom works of art and he’s delivering them to Rosecliff, one of Newport, R.I.’s famed palatial mansions, and other tony addresses in the famed seaside resort town.
Alley is doing business as Patticakes, named after his wife, Patti, in Wakefield, R.I. The company’s slogan is, “creating edible works of art, baked from scratch.”
Alley’s custom cakes take several weeks, if not months, to produce.
Alley has created a cake of Marie Antoinette with her head chopped off, an English Garden cake and a cake resembling the South Kingstown, Rhode Island, Towers, an iconic symbol for the region just to name a few.
However, Alley put aside his cake pans last summer to star in a Food Network challenge, “Crafty Christmas,” which will air Monday, Dec. 18, at 10 p.m. Episode 7 of “A Crafty Christmas” will be repeated at 1 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19, and at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 23.
The Jonesport-Beals High School graduate said he was one of just a handful of chefs chosen for the show out of a field of 10,000 applicants.
“It was a challenge from my daughter to do the show,” Alley said. Daughter Morgan is 17. “Of course we’re ancient to her as parents.”
So, he wanted to show Morgan that someone “turning 50 can do something challenging and exciting.”
In the Food Network competition, Alley was challenged along with four other bakers to create their own custom Santa cookies without using cookie cutters.
He described the show experience as “phenomenal.”
Alley can’t reveal how he did on “Crafty Christmas” but said the experience has led to other opportunities.
“It won’t be the last time you see me,” he said. “We have been readjusting things knowing what’s coming up. We will be changing the face of our business a little bit and our direction.”
Alley appreciates his upbringing on Beals Island.
“I think it’s played a very important role in who I am,” Alley said. “The amount of craftsmanship and creativity that’s there is overwhelming. Everyone in Jonesport and Beals lays claim to me because they all contributed to me in a different way.”
“When they say it takes a village to raise a child, I’m a good example of that,” said Alley. “Even though I was very poor, I was very rich because of the support I had growing up and contributing to who I became.”
“I really hope everyone does understand, even though I don’t come back that often now, [that] it’s a part of me and it always will be a part of me,” he said.
Alley left after high school to attend Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. Enrolled in the college’s culinary arts program, he met Patti while both were working at the same restaurant. She was a student at the University of Rhode Island.
After getting an associate degree in culinary arts, Alley was awarded a two-year scholarship and teaching fellowship to get his bachelor’s degree.
He went to Europe to be on the first collegiate team representing the United States at the Ika-Hoga World Culinary Olympics held every four years in Frankfurt, Germany. Alley is a gold medalist.
After graduating from college in 1989, Alley took positions as chef with several corporations, including Trust House Forte, Guest Quarter Suites and Walt Disney World.
From there, the couple settled in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., in the panhandle and opened Fancy Tomato Catering and Event Design Co.
He was recognized in several publications, including Town & Country and Southern Living Weddings for his innovative designs and creative food presentations. That led to his own regional PBS cooking show, “Thyme in the Kitchen with Chef Doug.”
That led to a gig as a culinary correspondent for WMBB-TV in Panama, Fla.
Alley said he focused the PBS show on creative dishes as well as sustainability and organic vegetables and herbs.
Patti Alley is a Rhode Island native, so that prompted them to settle in Rhode Island.
Alley said he went into the cake business instead of another catering company because he wanted to focus on being artistic and creative.
Alley’s cake creations can take several weeks to months to create. The process starts with two to three one-hour meetings with clients “to fine-tune their vision and what they’re looking for.”
“You get a lot of inspiration pieces,” Alley said. “You make them give you photographs, color schemes, adjectives. You have them pretend they’re seeing the cake for the first time and describing what they see.
“From there you create the sketches, shock them with the price tag and away you go.”
The English garden cake took six weeks to make. Alley created over 3,200 “stones” for the garden walls. Then there were countless flowers. “It was very tedious and time-consuming,” he said.
Some of the work is done ahead of time. Gum paste flowers, for example, have to be made in the winter when there’s no humidity, Alley said.
In the Food Network’s “A Crafty Christmas,” host Eddie Jackson will challenge Alley and four other of America’s cleverest cookie makers to create their own custom Santa cookie shapes without cookie cutters. Judges James Briscione, Ree Drummond and Joy “The Baker” Wilson will decide who succeeds and who just makes “Bad Santas.”
In the display round, the three remaining bakers get even more crafty by creating a Christmas wreath using only cookies. When the flour settles, only one baker’s wreath will earn $10,000 of holiday green.