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Kelsey Bjelland | Photo: Jamie Hopper | March 28, 2013
A former comedian bakes up a sweet concept.
For 32-year-old Michael Pettenato, it’s all about the production. Not only is his Cloud 9 Cupcakes (with locations in Roswell, Lenox Square and now Perimeter Mall) one of the highest volume cupcake bakeries in town, it’s also centered around entertaining his customers—“creating a little magic,” he says.
Raised in Atlanta, the gregarious University of Southern California grad headed to New York, where he did stand-up comedy on Broadway for three years. To pay the bills, he waited tables—casually rubbing elbows with the likes of Tom Cruise and Bill Clinton at Mario Batali’s Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca. “I didn’t want to be a chef; I just wanted to entertain the guests,” Pettenato explains. “Every night was a performance.”
In 2010, Pettenato returned to his hometown to launch Cloud 9 Cupcakes. He originates all the recipes (think red velvet, peach cobbler and peanut-butter cup), which are completely free of anything artificial and are hands down some of the best-tasting cupcakes we’ve ever eaten. But Pettenato swears he couldn’t do it all by himself. “I’m not a baker!” he admits, laughing. “If I had to make thousands of cupcakes, I would literally die!”
Last month, he marked two huge milestones: opening a third location in Perimeter Mall and making his national-television debut. He placed third on an episode of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, but cops to trying to do too much on the show. “Being on Cupcake Wars is like being in The Hunger Games,” he says. “You go into the show thinking you’re Katniss, and you just might end up like Rue.”
When the games are over, find this Sandy Springs-dweller hanging at laid-back spots, like Eclipse di Luna and Firebird Rotisserie & Sports. But whether he’s knee-deep in a new recipe, schmoozing with customers or working on his latest expansion project, one thing’s for sure: Pettenato’s savoring success—with just a little frosting. @smilingthrulife