Whisk-y business

Austin pastry chef battles to be named Food Network's Best Baker in America

Austin pastry chef battles to be named the Best Baker in America

Yolanda Diaz Geraldine's Best Baker America
Yolanda Diaz is competing to be named the Best Baker in America. Photo by Anders Krusberg

Most Americans can whip up a stir-fry or throw some broth and veggies in a pot and call it a soup, but baking is another story. To be a good baker, a person must have knowledge of culinary science, an assured palate, and a flair for art. It’s no wonder that baking competition shows continue to fascinate, popping up everywhere from Netflix to PBS.

Now, one of the most demanding TV battles is returning to the small screen. On May 13, Food Network will be bringing back its popular program Best Baker in America for a third season — and this time Austin has a hometown contender to root for.

According to a release, Geraldine’s executive pastry chef Yolanda Diaz will be battling for the title as she sifts, tempers, and frosts her way to glory. In each episode, she will have to endure two rounds: a skills challenge to measure proficiency in the technical basics and a master challenge that throws curveballs via specific — and often unexpected — ingredients.

"Proving to be the Best Baker in America takes a mixture of skill, imagination and determination," said Food Network president Courtney White in the release. "These tremendously talented bakers have their work cut out for them, as they are pushed outside their comfort zone to whip up beautiful and delicious baked goods to impress an all-star lineup of prestigious bakers for the $25,000 prize."

At the Hotel Van Zandt’s flagship restaurant, Diaz has proven she has what it takes. Her desserts like Apple Business with cinnamon cumin mousse, apple chutney, apple butter, and cheddar sable (a type of shortbread cookie) prove she has a technical prowess and a talent for using unconventional ingredients in her sweets.

Whether that will be enough to impress Food Network Star winner Jason Smith and The Kitchen host Marcela Valladolid, not to mention a roster of guest judges that include some of the baking world’s biggest names, remains to be seen. But she will face stiff competition from the other contestants, including one from the Lone Star State.

Judging by his handiwork on Instagram, Edet Okon will be difficult to beat. The Houston freelance cake artist comes with an impressive CV including baking an inaugural cake for the president of Nigeria and winning a gold medal from the American Culinary Federation. Plus, his mini bio on the Food Network site says that bombes are his favorite dessert. Luckily for him, a flaming Bombe Alaska is among this season’s challenges.

The season premieres at 8 pm on May 13 culminating in a red, white, and blue spectacular for the July 4 finale. Austinites can follow both Diaz and Okon’s progress on Monday nights.