JACKSON, Wyo. — Baking in front of a camera for a nationally-broadcast culinary competition? Not so hard in the moment.
Watching yourself on network television baking for a nationally-broadcast competition? A little more daunting. But it’s exactly what Mollie Matthaei will do this Monday, March 9.
Matthaei is one of 11 competitors featured on this season of Food Network’s “Spring Baking Championship.” The first of nine episodes premieres Monday at 9 p.m. ET (7 p.m. MST).
“I kind of can’t believe it, to be honest,” Matthaei told Buckrail. “I’m still waiting for someone to say, ‘oh, just kidding!'”
But Matthaei’s qualifications speak for themselves. She started baking in culinary school in Oregon and fell in love with the craft’s attention to detail. “A lot of pastry work is tedious, but I like that,” she said.
Now a culinary teacher at Jackson Hole High School and Summit High School, Matthaei has demonstrated her chops in the kitchen. So have all the competitors.
“It’s a really diverse group of bakers with really different skillsets,” Matthaei said. “One thing they have in common is that they can bake. By the time you get o the show, you’ve demonstrated you’re an amazing baker and pastry chef.”
Still, Matthaei said the process felt more cordial than competitive — and she’s “super, super competitive in real life.”
“I felt like I was baking with a bunch of my friends. I forgot pretty quickly that I should be out to get these guys.”
She couldn’t go into too much detail, but Matthaei said her background in the Pacific Northwest and Wyoming made her feel confident in the challenges she faced. She describes her style as “homey, comfortable, but also modern.” She’s used to drawing from locally-grown, foraged ingredients, and she said the competition presented her with ample opportunity to showcase what she knows.
No matter the results — and indeed Matthaei was not allowed to disclose any specific information — she said she’s most proud of the way she faced the many challenges presented to her. She hopes her students, many of whom are Spring Baking Championship superfans (or if they weren’t, they are now), can learn from that.
“It was fun, but it was also stressful and hard and I think I did a pretty good job of managing that,” Matthaei said. “I’m proud of learning and working through a process. This is the most interesting thing I’ve ever done. It pushed me professionally more than anything.”
Still, the biggest challenge is yet to come: seeing herself on screen. Matthaei, an Alpine resident, will be celebrating at the Flying Saddle Monday night. All are invited to celebrate with her, no matter the outcome.
The first episode airs Monday at 7 p.m. our time on the Food Network. It’ll be on Hulu the next day.
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