Max Moreis was baptized with cake batter.
“It was one of my earliest memories of making a birthday cake,” the 18-year-old regional high school graduate said this week on a short break from his job at State Road restaurant in West Tisbury. “When the cake was done I dumped the bowl and it got all in my hair. I made a total mess, and I’ve loved it ever since.”
Cooking, baking, eating — Mr. Moreis loves every aspect of being in the kitchen. “It’s all fun and I find it very relaxing. I’m not an artistic person but I express myself through food,” he said.
His most recent — and most public expression — was two weeks ago at the Agricultural Fair when for the second summer he operated his popular booth Create-A-Cake. The booth allowed customers to choose their own cake, filling and frosting, and won best booth of the year after selling 1,400 cupcakes.
The preparation was painful, he said, but worth it.
“Those days are sleepless but a lot of fun,” Mr. Moreis said. “I was at the fair all day from 8 a.m. to midnight and then I baked until 4 a.m., slept for two hours and then I’d go back to the fair.”
“Last year I didn’t sleep at all; this year two hours made a big difference,” he added.
The booth idea came to him a few summers ago, when Mr. Moreis saw a window in the dessert market at the fair — the strawberry shortcake stand didn’t quite cut it, fried dough was old hat.
“I love cake. I mean I really love cake,” he said. “I wanted to have people to have a variety and a little more decadence.
“Plus, who doesn’t like cupcakes?”
With two cupcakes shaved into the back of his head for the fair, Mr. Moreis quickly earned the nickname Cupcake.
But the booth is likely not to return next summer.
Mr. Moreis, who graduated from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in June, heads to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y, at the end of October, when he will begin a 38-month accelerated bachelor’s degree program in culinary arts.
He came up through the ranks at the high school culinary arts program, which he says literally changed his life. “In eighth grade I went up to the culinary program for a few hours and it was the time of my life — I thought I was the coolest kid ever, hanging out with all of the high schoolers,” he recalled. “I made it very clear to Chef Jack O’Malley and [vocational department chairman] Jeff Rothwell that I was culinary.” He added with a smile:
“Chef O’Malley has been unbelievable . . . I think he’s happy I’m going to [culinary school] and getting out of his hair. I think I turned him a few shades grayer.”
In his junior year he took an interest in pastry arts, especially cake decorating, and took a lead role as pastry chef in the culinary arts kitchen at the high school. The junior prom cake, donations to Island nonprofits, and next weekend a wedding cake for a family friend are among his many accomplishments.
He now plans to take up formal pastry training as he pursues his higher education.
This summer on the Vineyard he met Marco Canaro, the acclaimed New York city chef and owner of the restaurant Hearth who is a longtime Vineyard summer resident. Mr. Moreis now plans to complete the internship portion of his culinary degree at Mr. Canaro’s restaurant.
Mr. Moreis received the excellence in culinary arts award from the high school and was vocational student of the year during his senior year. At graduation, he received the presidential excellence award for culinary arts.
Along the way he was also captain of the football team and trained to become an EMT. He still takes shifts in Tisbury when he has time.
Which is not much these days — he works full time at State Road; in previous summers he worked at l’etoile in Edgartown.
At State Road, where he has been working under the tutelage of chef and owner Jackson Kenworth and sous chef Austin Racine since April, Mr. Moreis said he has been “learning a ton; I love working there.” He continued:
“There are no egos at State Road; it’s a very professional kitchen and they do a wonderful job. They told me on day one — the only thing we take seriously is food. That’s awesome.
“I’m looking over pastry workers and keeping an eye on what they’re doing. The other day I made the doughnuts at the restaurant, and thought these are the best doughnuts that ever came out of this kitchen. They all think I should do pastry, but for now I’m staying with culinary. I love it. It all gets me excited.
[State Road] is a very special place. If you walk in there during dinner service, there’s something in there that makes you want to stay.”