Serving Cupcakes and Inspiration

By Mary Ellen Mitchell

In just a few years, Donovan “Monty” Alderman’s baked goods business, Monty’s Neighborhood Snacks, has garnered fame in the culinary world.

Travel Noir magazine named his startup one of the 50 Best Black-Owned bakeries in the U.S. in 2018, and he was featured on Bake It ‘Til You Make It, a Food Network competition that aired in 2022 and 2023.

But the New Castle resident is more than a superb baker — he’s a community leader and inspiration to young people.

When the energetic 50-year-old isn’t busy fulfilling online orders or delivering to customers in northern Delaware, he’s teaching fundamentals of cooking and baking to underserved and at-risk youth throughout New Castle County.

The icing on the cake? He mixes real-world behavior skills into his curriculum, enabling students to develop not only mastery of the kitchen, but mastery of life.

Alderman knows first-hand what it takes to overcome challenges, having battled a lifelong learning disability in his youth. “I grew up in the city of Wilmington,” he says. “I became an angry teen, because I couldn’t read well, due to dyslexia. I used to cut class at Howard High and walk home out of frustration.”

He was expelled, but his parents refused to give up on their son, offering him a second chance at Dickinson High School in Milltown.

“I couldn’t walk home from there,” he chuckles.


Lessons from Football

At Dickinson, Alderman discovered what became an enduring passion: football. Excelling at the safety position, he co-captained the 1992 team that brought home the state championship.

“Football taught me how to set and achieve goals, both on and off the field. I learned the importance of always giving my best, and the value of teamwork,” he says.

Armed with that confidence, Alderman tackled his dyslexia and graduated, then went on to Delaware State University (DSU), where he played football and earned a degree in education in 2000. That led to an 18-year career teaching math to special education students at both Dickinson and Middletown High Schools, where he also coached football.

Early in his tenure as teacher and coach, he married his best friend, Reagan Byrd, an elementary school teacher. They have a 17-year-old daughter and a 24-year-old son.

Alderman learned to cook through a bonding exercise with his daughter. “When she was around 6, I turned to the kitchen for a novel activity we could enjoy together,” he says. “I didn’t know what I was doing at first, but we learned through cookbooks and online videos . . . and trial and error,” he adds with a grin.


Teaching a New Topic

In 2018, the memory of those kitchen adventures still fresh, Alderman decided to offer a free, interactive cooking class at the Walnut Street YMCA. His goal was to show young students how to create the kinds of simple and affordable meals and snacks that he and his daughter made.

“For instance,” he says, “if mom or dad have $5, they can pick up a rotisserie chicken. With mayo, mustard, and relish, which we already have at home, we can whip up some chicken salad.”

He says that concept — of working with what you have — is easy for young adults to grasp.

Students gave five-star reviews in the survey that concluded the 90-minute session, and Alderman was invited back to conduct the free class on a weekly basis.

Building on that success, he began networking with other local nonprofits, earning his first paid contract to teach youth cooking classes at the Latin American Community Center in Wilmington.

Buzzing with positivity from his fulfilling side hustle, he decided to bake a cake from scratch one day. A friend of Raegan’s sampled it and declared, “This cake is delicious . . . you could sell this cake!”

Alderman laughed, but kept the idea in the back of his mind. A few weeks later, he baked and sold a cake to a friend for a party. This inspired him to create a business plan to bake and sell oversized cupcakes for $1 at the barbershops in and around New Castle and Wilmington. He called his new venture “Monty’s Hood Snacks.”

Soon it became difficult to keep up with demand. Some Saturdays, after working all morning, Alderman arrived with fresh cupcakes just as the barbershops were getting ready to close.

“I developed a knack for baking, but I was limited by the quantity I could produce in my home kitchen,” Alderman says. But this didn’t deter him. “I just needed a way to become more efficient.”


A Sprinkle of Fate

In 2020, Alderman happened to reconnect with Christopher Purnell, former DSU teammate and current executive director of the Police Athletic League (PAL) in Wilmington. He pitched his curriculum to his old friend, and earned not only a contract to teach at PAL, but use of PAL’s kitchen, equipped with large, professional ovens and plenty of workspace.

With this arrangement, batches of cupcakes that used to take an entire day to make could be ready to deliver in just a few hours.

Meanwhile, his classes at PAL were getting rave reviews.

“When students enter the classroom, they’re so excited to discover what they’ll learn from ‘Mr. Monty,’ as he’s fondly known,” Purnell says. “He communicates with them in a way they’re comfortable with. And when they’re finished making their meal or treat, they can’t wait to eat it — or take it home to show their parents.”

Tailoring his lesson plan to the age and sophistication level of his students, he begins with a team-building activity, then transitions to cooking and baking with plenty of fun thrown in, including singing and dancing.

His instruction also incorporates vital soft skills, such as time and stress management, conflict resolution, emotional awareness, problem-solving and effective communication.


A Dash of Good Luck

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, activities at PAL were put on hold, but Alderman remained productive, earning a contract to conduct classes via Zoom to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware, who also pledged large cupcake orders, boosting the bakery side of the business.

In 2021, he was chosen to conduct a workshop for the United Way of Delaware’s Summer and Afterschool Program at Stubbs Early Education Center in Wilmington, where dads and kids learned how to make two meals for a family of four for just $15. What’s more, they discovered how to make healthy snacks on a budget.

Says Stubbs Principal Hank Williams: “I was very impressed with the level of engagement Monty brought to this event. He has a very special spark, and I know he’ll go far in making our community a better place.”

The United Way followed up with Alderman, extending a contract to conduct his classes at additional schools in the county. He was becoming a very busy man, but he wanted to reach even more kids with his program — including those with prior delinquencies.

In 2022, he contacted a friend who serves as director of Ferris School, a detention center in Wilmington for 13 to 18-year-old male offenders. He proposed leading a free cupcake decorating class.

“I’m all about giving back, so every time I earned a new contract, I taught a free class at Ferris,” he says. This popular class earned him a paid contract, allowing him to successfully engage this tough crowd every day for the next month.

The New Castle County Detention Center was next in line. In 2022, the State of Delaware awarded Alderman a one-year contract teaching cooking classes in four-week segments at the detention center. This was the deal that convinced him to finally leave his high school teaching job to pursue his business full-time.

By 2023, he had struck a balance: teaching enough cooking classes to make a living, while nearly doubling bakery sales through marketing and local events. He also changed the business name to “Monty’s Neighborhood Snacks” for broader appeal.

“I know first-hand what ‘give up’ feels like, but I tell the kids, ‘whatever your weakness is — you can overcome it,’” he says. “If I say something that motivates a young person to obtain something better for themself, then I’ve won.”

His ability to motivate is also apparent on social media, where he posts fun and uplifting messages and pictures of his baked goods, along with highlights of his gym workouts.

“As a role model for youngsters, I believe it’s important to promote the benefits of lifelong physical activity, too,” Alderman says.


Down The Line

“Someday I’d like to have my own bakery, with a storefront and classrooms . . . and trucks coming and going with crates of cupcakes,” Alderman muses. “I’d hire kids from the detention centers and those with learning disabilities for jobs that they’re good at and enjoy. It might be a few years off, but I believe in what I’m doing.”

“I know I can connect to young people, and I like to help them. That ‘bad’ kid? I want him to know that I not only understand you, but I like you — and you can overcome your past!”

— For more information and to order cupcakes and cakes for pickup or delivery, visit (We highly recommend the strawberry crunch cake.) For a taste of daily inspiration, follow Monty’s Neighborhood Snacks on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

Above: Monty Alderman (center) with (standing l-r): Keicha Carter, Jaden Hairston, Elijah Weatherly, Ziya Boyce. Seated l-r: Brooke Savannah, Devon Congo. Photo by Justin Heyes.