Serrano is the second of his parents’ four children. He has nothing but fond memories of his childhood.
“Chicago is a tough city, but it’s a good thing,” Serrano said. “Living in a tough city, like New York, toughens you up and prepares you for everything that comes afterward. I grew up in a tough neighborhood. There were a lot of gangs and drugs and things like that, but my parents were really good. They helped keep us clean and always had us doing something watching over us.”
He describes his parents as being strict, but acknowledges that it was all for a good reason.
“My parents are old-school,” said Serrano. “They came here from Puerto Rico and the best that they hoped for us was that we stayed out of trouble, that we were good people and that we would find some kind of way to make a living. I think that their main thing was providing for us and making sure we were okay, all the way.”
Serrano is also close to his sister; her interest and pride in his work has allowed her to have a more active role in his business.
“She is very encouraging. Every time something comes up, she is always calling press or something like that. She is almost like my publicist,” said Serrano.
He started out in the pastry business when his brother enlisted in the Marine Corps. He was working as a baker and asked his brother if he wanted his position there. Serrano was enrolled in an art program at a local college and needed a job to help pay for the tuition. He accepted the job and before his brother left for training, he gave him a crash course in how to work in that job field.
“After about three months of baking there, the manager became aware that I had an art background and asked me if I wanted to take cake decorating classes, so I did. I’ve never stopped decorating,” he said in an earlier interview with Modern Baking.
Although Serrano has lived in Chicago, it wasn’t really his dream to stay there. After he received his degree in art, he wanted to move on to bigger and better things in a different location.
“I was going to go out to California and pursue my animation career but that was when my little brother got into some legal trouble. He left his two young boys behind, so I had to change my plans and not go out to California. I stayed in Chicago and I have been working here and raising my nephews,” he said.
His nephews are now seventeen and sixteen years old.
“An uncle of mine told me to take what I know and then apply it towards food. I was already decorating cakes and I had the background, so I said why not,” Serrano said.
He later enrolled in Kendall College, a culinary arts school, in Chicago, but he didn’t lose sight of his interest in animations. For work that gave him a break from the pastry world, he obtained a job at amusement parks airbrushing characters for park-goers for three years.
He worked at a family bakery for about fourteen years before he got a chance to compete in a Chicago based cake competition. He hit it big with the win of one of these competitions. His award was an appearance in the Food Network.
Given a chance to be an assistant to one of the veteran contestants on “Challenge” on the Food Network, Serrano was paired with the winning designer of that episode, Bronwen Weber of Dallas, Texas. Serrano was nervous at first, being that it was his first time on television with cameras in his face for eight hours and having a pre- and post-interviews from producers, but he was able to keep his cool. He helped Weber with her win, but he did not stay an assistant for long.
“About a year after that episode, the producers called me back and asked if I wanted to be a lead, to be on the Food Network show as a lead with my own assistant. The one I think was the Pixar episode, we won second place on that one,” Serrano said.
Over the past few years, his creations were able to give him the first place prize three times. Serrano is scheduled to make another appearance on the show Halloween special episode, Urban Legends cakes, which will air on Sunday, October 31st. If you would like to order an original Serrano creation, the price varies from $150 to $4,000. Even though, he is experienced in making other desserts, Serrano prefers to specialize in cakes for right now.