Stepping Out

Danielle Sepsy bakes her way to success

The entreprenurial chef's world is tastier than ever


Danielle Sepsy, aka the Queen of Scones, has her ovens on overdrive  in 2024. The chef-entrepreneur was on quite a ride in 2023. She catapulted to fame, following her appearance on Dan Levy’s “The Big Brunch” on Max. All eight episodes were devoured by folks who quickly discovered the dynamic, bubbly Sepsy.

The cooking competition, created by Levy (of “Schitt’s Creek” fame), highlighted the stories of 10 chefs and their impact on their local communities as they competed to win a $300,000 prize.

Like many, Sepsy was familiar with Levy from “Schitt’s Creek.” As Sepsy tells it, “He created his next project because he was passionate about food and telling people’s stories who didn’t have a chance to tell their stories. They needed to be heard. He posted he was looking for chefs, and people urged me to apply.”

Sespy, who certainly has the competitive chops, had applied to other reality cooking shows — including Food Network’s “The Next Food Network Star” — over the years, but hadn’t yet made the cut.

“I always came close but didn’t get it,” she relates. “I think this happened for a reason. The second I read about it, I felt ‘this is me.’ It felt different, very well-intentioned. Super-positive.

“There’s a risk in any reality show that you’re portrayed as something you’re not. I emailed the casting company before even submitting an application. They must have looked at my Instagram right away, wrote me back immediatley, and wanted to have an interview the next day.”

What followed was a four-month whirlwind of cooking tests, background checks, even psych evaluations. Plus Sepsy still had her growing bakery business, The Hungry Gnome, based in Long Island City, to run.

Shes the founder and creative genius behind her innovative wholesale bakery and catering company. Growing up in the kitchen with her Italian grandmother, Sepsy’s love of cooking began at a young age.

“An amazing baker, my grandmother spent all her time creating recipes,” she says. “She saw this was something I was passionate about, and spent her time with me cooking. She was my inspiration.”

As a 13-year-old, she started a home business selling her delicious scones to friends, neighbors and local cafes. She had found her calling. That passion led her to begin her career in hospitality. She spent 10 years managing fine dining restaurants in some of New York City’s elite luxury hotels, after graduating from Penn State University’s School of Hospitality Management.

Her resume includes The Peninsula, and the iconic Plaza and Waldorf Astoria hotels. Yet, she longed to return to baking.

As she explains, the coronavirus pandemic actually presented her with that opportunity.

“I had lost my job unexpectedly,” she said. “This was the push that I needed. I knew it wasn’t a sure thing, but this was a sign. Overnight, I started to email coffee shops. I started bringing them samples. And, within a week, I ended up signing one of the biggest coffee shop chains in New York City, which had over 20 stores, and I was in business.”

The pandemic happened simultaneously.

“It actually helped me because all my customers that had just signed with me said we’re going to be closing for a while. And it was perfect for me, because it allowed me to get myself ready. I hired people who lost their jobs due to Covid. I found a commercial kitchen. I started expanding my menu of baked goods, which initially was scones and banana bread, and then it became muffins and cookies. I started developing my recipes and working with my new team. By that July, I was in business and started doing wholesale.”

More than three years later, the Hungry Gnome sells to 150 stores wholesale and ships direct to consumer through her website.

“It’s grown tremendously,” Danielle says, proudly. “I went from me and two other employees in the kitchen to 22 and counting.”

Her explosive success has led her to recently move to a larger bakery space in Long Island City.
“I spent 10 months building from scratch,” Sepsy says. “Our own space tailored to our needs, with new equipment, more square footage so that means we can hire more people and expand further.”

Meanwhile the Queen of Scones marvels at how it’s all happened in a relatively short few years — transformed by what she describes as the “life- changing experience” of “The Big Brunch.”

“It was a challenging journey as far as self-confidence,” she said. “I started out feeling insecure. Even though I do savory cooking, too, I’m really a baker by trade, and everyone around me had a lot of fine dining background. I felt like Betty Crocker in this sea of Jacques Pepins. I began to realize challenge after challenge I had a place there. Everyone loved my food.”

She began to thrive, reaching the finals.

“Although I didn’t win, I very much feel like a winner as corny as that sounds,” she says. “It impacted life tremendously.”

Sepsy’s social media presence certainly benefited at that point.

“I was the only chef (on the show) you could purchase from,” she said. “I had started my website, so I had products available to be shipped direct to your door. Once people started watching, online sales grew 5,000 percent. I started getting recognized on the street, and was seen as a ‘real chef.’ It gave me this boost of confidence and motivated me.”

Since then, Sepsy has been a frequent media presence, appearing on “Good Morning America” and “Anderson Cooper Live,” among others, dispensing what she describes as “food talk” and culinary tidbits.

“I’ve become a baking guru and correspondent as far as food goes,” Sepsy says. “It’s a dream come true.”

As far as those famous scones, if you haven’t yet had the opportunity to sample, you may find the recipe in her upcoming cookbook — her first — due out next year. It’s among the many new projects underway for Sepsy and her “gnomies.”

Or, visit her website at Her baked goods are now also available at newly opened Pantano’s on Seventh Street in Garden City. The whirlwind continues for Sepsy.

“My life has completely changed in the past year,” she says. “It’s hard to sometimes realize in the midst of constantly moving and reaching for what’s next. When I stop to look back on the course of one year, it’s been tremendous. I’m so grateful.”