A JUNE TO REMEMBER
Julia Child said, “Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” I have indeed and for me that is baking. I think I was I born in love with baking, I just didn’t know it. When I was young, our family would visit my Great-aunt Fronnie. She was an amazing baker; pies, cakes and even candy. Everything she made was beautiful.
When my son went into the Marine Corps I discovered the world for cake decorating. It was during this time I rediscovered my love for baking. I have taught cake decorating and baking classes for years. Over this last year, I began to question if this was something I should to continue doing. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but my classes weren’t being booked and finding a place to hold them was becoming increasing difficult. It just seemed that maybe I should rethink teaching. I talked about it and dreamed about it and prayed about it. “My Dad used to say, “be quiet and still, and listen, then you’ll know what to do,” and that is what I did.
The adventure began with a phone call. The call came from the Great American Baking Show. I had completely forgotten that I had applied for last season’s show. The lady on the line said she was calling about my application for the show. Unfortunately, the application submitted last year was after the cut-off date, but they “encouraged” me to reapply for the new season. I said, “are you kidding me?” She said she got that a lot. I forgot I had applied. The interviews started the first week of June, so if I was interested I would need to apply soon. No encouragement needed and reapply I did!
A couple of days later I got a call from the GABS (Great American Baking Show) asking when I would be available for a telephone interview. I said, “any time.” They asked, “tomorrow?” I said, “yes.” We agreed on a time and the next day I patiently (not very) awaited the call.
The interviewer introduced herself as a production assistant. She would be asking me questions about my general baking knowledge. The first question asked was, “At what temperature do you cook sugar to make Italian meringue?” I answered with confidence, “at 235 take it off the stove as it will continue to rise in temperature to 240”. That was correct. Next question, “the name of the bottom of a macaron is what?” “Feet,” I replied. Correct. The last question I remember was “the slab of butter used in puff pastry if referred to as what?” “Butter block,” I replied. Right again. After that it was a blur. She thanked me for my time and said I would be contacted if selected for the next round. So, I waited.
I didn’t have to wait long. The next afternoon I received a call from a casting producer asking to schedule a FaceTime interview. “After 3:30 would be best for me”, I replied. So, it was set. This was really happening. Later that afternoon, I received a follow-up email outlining what I should or should not do and wear for the video interview. I read and reread my instructions and would be ready!
The video interview took 45 minutes and was straight forward. It consisted of a series of questions that all the interviewees were asked. The questions were about myself, my baking experience and why I applied for the show. I smiled, was cheerful and showed lots of energy. “You did great,” she said with a slight British accent. She thanked me for my time and said I would be contacted if selected for the next round. Later that afternoon, I received an email requesting photos and/or videos of my bakes, teaching others to bake, etc. The email said if chosen for the next round I would hear from them by the end of the month. So again, I waited.
It had been two weeks and I had just about given up hope, when the email came. “Congratulations, on making it this far and we will be in touch for the in-person auditions.” This was REALLY happening. The in-person auditions would be in a couple of weeks in St. Louis so that meant travel and finding a hotel with a full kitchen. This also meant loading up baking supplies/equipment and hauling them and my patient husband (he is a saint) 790 miles. You see, the in-person interview meant bringing 3 bakes for casting producers to taste as well as in-person interview. So, the search for a hotel began. I called the Residence Inn and I am thankful to the folks at Residence Inn by Marriott St. Louis Galleria, for helping to make this trip a success. Yes, I said a success. The culinary producers liked my bakes. California, here I come. This was REALLY happening.
The trip to California was set. I received my email of do’s and don’ts and other trip instructions. Those of us who had made it this far, we would be baking in a group setting and it would be a technical challenge. We would have a set time to bake in an unfamiliar kitchen using a recipe we had not seen prior; all the while being asked questions while being filmed. No pressure… right? My husband drove me to the airport and kissed me goodbye. He said he didn’t need to wish me luck, he knew I would be great. He is my biggest fan.
Traveling is not what is used to be. Flights were delayed and rescheduled blah, blah, blah but I eventually made it to Los Angeles and got a cab to the hotel. When I finally reached the hotel, I only wanted to eat and sleep. So, I did. I would be ready for tomorrow and the technical challenge.
According to my emailed instructions, I was to be in the hotel lobby at noon and was scheduled to bake at 2:30. Transportation had been arranged to the baking location. When I got to the lobby there was a group of people in the seating area. I noticed some had oven mittens and recognized them as fellow bakers. We introduced ourselves, made small talk and then quickly discovered that some of these bakers had been here before. For some of these ladies, this was their third attempt at making it to the tent. I admire their determination.
We were loaded in a van and shuttled to the baking location. In a meeting room, we received our instructions and were told our personal belongings such as cell phones and purses were to remain as no photos were allowed. An escort took us to the baking area. We were assigned work stations, ovens and received our technical challenge instructions. For a brief moment, it was quiet enough to hear a pin drop. Then we were given the signal; “on your mark, get set, bake!” Yes, it really happed!
We turned over our recipes and began. There were no mixers, so it was all done by hand. We used scales to measure ingredients and wooden spoons and nylon spatulas for creaming butter and combining ingredients for both the cake and the frosting. We had two hours to bake and decorate a 2-layer cake. During the measuring and mixing and baking, we were asked questions while being filmed. They asked about our bakes, our favorite baking memories and general questions to keep us talking. The two hours flew by and we all finished our cakes. It was hot and noisy and so much fun! The finalists would be chosen by the last week of June and we would be notified either way. The next day, I flew home. And hoped.
A few weeks ago, I received word I had not been chosen for the show. I won’t lie, I was disappointed, but I know that everything happens for a reason. To be selected from thousands, then hundreds and then make it to filming in California, I am so happy and grateful to have made it as far as I did. I have sweet new friends across the country with to share baking adventures, a renewed confidence in myself and memories from this once in a lifetime experience. The adventure is not over, just taken a new direction. And if I should lose my way, I know what to do…be still, be quiet and listen.