Culinary Arts instructor Andy Chlebana wasn’t planning to enter a competition again for quite a while, given his exhausting schedule the past few years that has included full-time teaching duties, a number of professional competitions, and an appearance on the Food Network’s 2011 “Challenge”, which he won.
But when Food Network producers called him again in January 2015 and asked him to audition for a new show, he felt it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
“I thought sure, I could apply… and then the whole process happened extremely quickly, and next thing I knew, I was going to be on this show along with seven other contestants,” said Chlebana. “It was a whirlwind.”
The show is Food Network’s “Spring Baking Championship”, in which eight of the country’s top bakers enter the kitchen to show off their superb baking skills, from Mother’s Day brunches and family picnics to birthday parties and weddings. In each of the six hour-long episodes, the bakers are tested in a pre-heat round, where one baker will be granted a special advantage in the main heat. Along the way they must endure surprising twists in order to succeed. To survive the challenges from week to week, the bakers must prove their abilities in front of tough-love judges Duff Goldman, Lorraine Pascale and Nancy Fuller. The show is hosted by Bobby Deen.
Compared to his experience on the 2011 Food Network Challenge, which he won by creating an exquisite dress made entirely of sugar, Chlebana said this time around felt more positive and fun.
“At the end of each day, whether you were ranked in the bottom or the top, if you were still there, that’s all that mattered. Each challenge was fun and unique, and I had a great time,” he said.
Still, Chlebana endured his share of stress during the filming of the show, which took place over two weeks in Los Angeles earlier this spring.
“When we walked through those doors each day, we had no idea what to expect,” he said. “And when they said we had 90 minutes to complete a challenge, they really meant 90 minutes. So I’m running to the pantry, grabbing all the ingredients as quickly as I can… it was intense!”
Chlebana also added that one nice thing in this experience, compared to professional competitions he’s been in, was he was never judged on how messy the preparation was, only the end result.
The first episode of “Spring Baking Championship” airs Sunday, April 26 at 8 CST on Food Network. Altogether, there will be six episodes of the show. The winner will receive the grand prize of $50,000 and the title of Spring Baking Champion.
Stay tuned each week to see if Chlebana survives each challenge all the way to the finale!