Michael Mararian initially moved to Buffalo from NYC when he fell in love and married a Buffalo gal. As an artist, Michael knew that he could paint locally, and sell his works online. For a while, that seemed to be the perfect plan, until his wife was tragically diagnosed with cancer. It was while she was ill that the two began to tune into various cooking channels, to take their minds off of their concerns.
“We would watch the cooking shows during the week, and then I would bake something for her every Sunday,” Michael told me. “I’m not a professional baker, but I love to bake.”
Michael told me that when his wife passed away, he was determined to continue baking, for nostalgic reasons. So he kept at it, and began to get better and better at making all sorts of confectionary creations.
During the pandemic, Michael’s baking began to take on a life of its own. He started getting really good at it, and set out to produce a weekly episodic series online. But his baking prowess is only part of the reason that he is now being recognized (and highly regarded) for his craft. His “shtick” is pairing quirky desserts with throwback fashion ensembles.
“Last Christmas, a friend of mine sent me some holidays cookies that she had baked,” said Michael. “I happened to be wearing a vintage Christmas sweater when I posted them online. I couldn’t believe that so many people commented on the sweater, and not so much on the cookies. That’s when I decided that my next episode I would incorporate some crazy retro fashion statements. It was such as hit that I began searching for more outfits online, to go along with my baked goods. The outfits got more people interested in the baked goods, which is when I figured that I would begin to research the history of the obscure cakes and desserts that I was making, as well as the origins of the outfits… it turned out to be a trifecta – the perfect storm – history, culinary, and fashion.”
As much as Michael is known for his art, he told me that he has never received such a response as he has with his niche “show” that he calls Polyester Bakes.
“I never would have thought that it would take off like this,” said Michael. “To tell you the truth, the desserts don’t even have to taste good, because people can only see what they look like. Of course I want them to taste as good as they look, but every once in a while a cake might be “off.” That said, I’m getting better at reading recipes and can now gauge whether something might be too heavy or too dry.
“At this point, I’m becoming a pretty good baker… which is why people told me to enter an online competition called ‘Greatest Baker.’ It’s basically a voting competition, based on popularity. It’s fun and goofy, but I feel that I’m seriously representing Buffalo.”
While this whole baking routine was born of a dire circumstance, Michael has made the most of it. He’s well aware that his role as baker incorporates a lighthearted angle. And that’s fine with Michael. It’s also fine with his fans who eat up everything that he is doing. Plus, he gets to keep the outfits and rock them around town.
“A friend of mine told me that it’s the greatest performance art piece that she’s seen in a while,” said Michael. “That was a major compliment. It’s the reason that I keep doing all of this. I mean, c’mon, I get to bake and dress up – what could be better than that?”
To cast a free daily vote for Michael (as the Greatest Baker), click here.
Also visit Polyester Bakes on Instagram for more in-depth histories and descriptions of the desserts and the matching ensembles.
Lead image (L-R): Swedish Semlor Buns, wearing a Syr, completely made of nylon | Mont Blanc Cake, sporting a vintage Nehru jacket (think Beatles) | A Charlotte Royale, donning a 70’s ensemble of a Hagar leisure suit, groovy neck scarf and Sears wide collar dress shirt.