When I was eight years old, I used to sit on the stairs and watch my grandfather waltz around our living room with his dance partner. He was a ballroom dance instructor and seeing him glide across the hardwood floor with such effortless grace was like watching magic. By age nine, I had learned his old routines and by the time I entered my teen years, I was already performing at parties with him. Eventually, I got into technique classes and musical theater, and further fell in love with dance and performing.
Dance became one of those things. No matter how hard of a day I had, no matter what difficulties I was facing in the real world with friends, family, school, etc…, the second I walked into the studio or onto the stage, I knew I was home.
The years passed, classes ended, and shows came and went but I was still determined to keep dancing. During college, I found myself on a competitive repertory dance team and performing at the Disneyland Resort while auditioning for various agencies and gigs - whenever the opportunity presented itself. At that time, I was completely content dancing through life.
Eventually, I became very comfortable in the kitchen and grew to love all aspects of the culinary world. I would spend my weekday afternoons flipping through channels, juggling episodes of The Magic School Bus and The French Chef with Julia Child. If I learned anything from my mother, Ms. Frizzle, and Julia it was that in all things-no matter what it was- it was okay to take chances, makes mistakes, and get messy without any apologies; this was something that I would later learn to appreciate.
So flash forward to 2010, I'm fresh out of college, I just came back from backpacking through Japan, I'm with an agency and I'm in my fourth year dancing at Disney. During this time, I've taken on the role as the "den mother" in my group of friends, constantly show up to work and rehearsals with freshly baked goods. Everyone kept asking if I was going to start selling my treats, but I was adamant about not turning my hobby into work. Then one balmy summer day, I walked into work and was pulled into a cast meeting. We received the news that our show was closing within a few months and it hit me that my time at Disney was about to come to an end and I had no other dance jobs lined up.
Driving home that night, I kept hearing Sylvia's voice ringing in my ear. What if I did start doing this professionally? I knew I wouldn't get any rest if I didn't talk it over with someone, so I called up my best friend Melissa, who I've known since our freshman year of college. We both shared a great passion food and even hosted a few brunches and dinner parties for our friends over the years. I pitched her my idea about starting a cupcake business and after an hour lunch a couple days later, Happily Ever After Confectionery was created; it was time to take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.
On January 11, 2011, I hung up my dance shoes and dawned my apron with complete trepidation. The first few months of baking were rough and I'm pretty sure we lost money, but after a few orders we started to get the hang of it.
Now, I don't know if I'd call myself a success story, as there is still plenty of room for growth and improvement and I've definitely made some mistakes along the way, but I do know that I have come a long way from being a boy with a whisk and nervous butterflies in my stomach. I may not be able to do switch-leaps anymore or do as many pirouettes as I used to, but I've learned the value of hard work and perseverance and that sometimes you really have to go out on a limb to truly find yourself...and who knows, maybe one day I'll find my way back to the dance studio, but for now I'm perfectly content bringing a little extra sweetness to the world.
Daryl Manese lives in Los Angeles, CA, where he bakes cupcakes with his bff Melissa. They have been featured on Food Network's Cupcake Wars. You can see more of their work by visiting HEAC's website or following him on twitter @HEAConfections