IN THE BIZ – RON BEN-ISRAEL
Celebrity chef and trendsetting cake designer Ron Ben-Israel offers a unique approach to your wedding cakes, celebration cakes, and a personalized cake experience. We have the honor of working with the illustrious Ron Ben-Israel for many of our clients and for this installment of In The Biz, we had the opportunity to learn a bit more about him and his journey
Events by RHC: Hi Ron, thank you so much for joining us today. It is really such an honor. Our first question is a simple one, tell us who you are.
Ron Ben-Israel: My name is Ron Ben-Israel. And my official title is “President,” I swear, because we incorporated, but people really address me as “Chef/Owner”. But the reality of it is, and everyone who works in this industry knows this, you do everything. From washing dishes to cleaning toilets to running around collecting groceries, and fighting with traffic too- there’s no limit, especially if you own a small business. Et Cetera.
Events by RHC: Chef, owner, et cetera. I love it. Tell us a little bit about your journey into the events industry. How did you get started? And what was the beginning of your career like and how did you get to where you are now?
RBI: Like a lot of the good stuff that happens in life, it was all a mistake, not intentional, at least not conscious. So when I was in Israel, I went to fine art school for four years. Then I went to the military service for three years, kicking and screaming when I had to go. I was rebellious. But now I’m grateful for the experience because I really learned discipline. As a young person, I was ruled by instinct and desires. And you learn how to prioritize. And then I had a career for about 15 years as a modern dancer, and my hobby was baking. Because I loved it. I learned to bake in my mother’s kitchen.
Events by RHC: Tell me more about that.
RBI: My mother was born in Vienna, and all our neighbors and family members were European — either Austrian or German. So I learned how to bake the European way. Lots of butter and good chocolate. And when I stopped dancing, I came to New York City and I had maybe 100 different jobs. I worked as a cater waiter, which gave me a little taste of the events world in New York City. I worked in bakeries. I worked dressing models in Bryant Park for the Fashion Week. I did landscaping, I did so many many many different things. And then the biggest challenge was to do a window display for Mikimoto, the Japanese company on Fifth Avenue. They asked me to incorporate some cakes, but I didn’t really know how to decorate cakes— I knew how to bake.
Events by RHC: So what did you do?
RBI: I went to a store I had heard about to try and get some supplies — piping tools and things like that. And I met a lady there. She was carrying a cake. And it was so beautiful, filled with sugar flowers. I asked her how she did it, and she said that she was teaching a course and asked if I would like to join. That was 25 years ago and she’s still my mentor—her name is Betty Van Norstrand, and she’s 94 years old. She has taught 1000s of people.
Events by RHC: That is a beautiful story. What happened next? How did you continue to become the Ron Ben-Israel?
RBI: One day I get a phone call. And the lady on the other side said, Hi, Ron, this is Martha. And I thought it was a joke. I thought somebody was pranking me. And she said, “I’m starting a wedding magazine and would like to use your cakes, would you like to meet me for breakfast?” I ended up working with Martha Stewart making cakes for maybe 20 years.
Events by RHC: What is your favorite part of your job?
RBI: I have a lot of students myself—I love to teach. And I love to travel and lecture at cake shows and conferences. People always asked me, What was your dream? Why did you know that you’re going to be a cake designer? First of all, I just wanted to bake. And I didn’t plan it. I went with the flow. And there are many other half careers and ambitions that never came to anything. People liked the cakes, that was the case from the very beginning. I get to meet very interesting people. I get to have influences from florists, event planners, stationery makers, dress designers, and architects and we have so many talented people who work in our industry and they can all teach me something. And nowadays, when I actually have my own students in my own company, I look at it as an obligation to give back to an industry that has given me so much.
Events by RHC: That is beautiful. Is there anything particularly interesting going on in the cake world right now? Any trends that you find notable or exciting?
RBI: Since COVID, we’ve become a little nostalgic about birthdays and celebrations so we brought in Funfetti again, but not just your regular Funfetti. We call it the birthday. And then we also source each color. So if you have blue hydrangeas made out of sugar on the outside of the cake, you can have little blue sprinkles inside. So I ask a couple never to tell anybody what’s in the cake. So you’ll be surprised and then in the cutting together, you expose what’s inside!
Events by RHC: That is so fun and creative and actually really sweet. We love that people are bringing elements of their childhood memories into the most important moments in their adulthood. That is so special. My last question is what is the single best piece of advice you’ve ever been given in your career?
RBI: Just be a mensch. You know what that is? A mensch, in Hebrew, is a person of integrity and honor. You know, no matter how much talent and success, it doesn’t mean anything. The support of family, friends, and clients, is all that matters when you enjoy what you do as much as I do.
Events by RHC: Just be a mensch.
RBI: That’s right, just be a mensch.