By Jennifer Hoegg
People stop Crystal Peach in the grocery store these days to ask, “are you the girl on TV?”
Yes, she is. The North Alton woman’s bubbly personality and serious talent are familiar since her passion for baking earned her a national cooking show appearance.
Peach didn’t win the cake episode, but she is glowing with pride over her achievement.
“I’m proud of my accomplishment. I feel really great about having done it.”
Long before her turn on the Food Network’s Recipes to Riches show, the 33-year-old learned to bake with her grandmother while growing up in Yarmouth and continued her interest by reading cookbooks, watching cooking shows and creating her own recipes.
“I love putting ingredients together and having magic happen,” she said.
Just to get on the show, her recipe – Orange Chocolate Silk Cake – had to be one of the top three in the national contest.
“My cakes are showcase, gourmet pieces,” she said of the creative, original blends of traditional cake and pie fillings.
The bake off began in January 2011, when the mother of three heard about a Halifax audition for the show and baked, baked and baked her cake in order to perfect it.
On the big day, Peach wowed the trio of judges, with her “sensuous” cake and received a golden recipe card to show she was under consideration. Nervously, she cut three perfect slices to be tasted with the rest of the cake rolled in on a tray to display. “They raved about it,” she said.
Judge Tony Chapman, a marketing expert, loved her personality, too, she said.
It wasn’t until a few weeks before the March filming Peach found out she made the next round. A film crew visited her home to make a bio, complete with shots of her conducting her church choir, teaching piano and playing with her kids.
Then the family was off to Toronto for the “opportunity of a lifetime,” she said.
Peach said the competition was intense between the contestants, a culinary student from Fall River and a flight attendant from Alberta.
“It was an all day process, she said, “with six hours of baking, give or take. What you see that takes a minute, takes hours to film.”
The three home cooks were set up in an industrial kitchen paired with professional chefs. Peach has high praise for her pro partner who helped her learn how to make 200 times her regular recipe with a giant mixer and “crazy stoves” and a team of culinary students to organize.
“I love putting ingredients together and having magic happen.” - Crystal Peach
“Little things like that throw you off your game,” Peach admitted, but “after the deer in the headlights moments, I gave people their jobs and we were OK.”
Peach’s cake didn’t make the final cut – the episode’s top prize went to fellow Nova Scotian Jacqui Keseluk – but she said she loved the entire experience. “It was me, doing my thing.”
Peach couldn’t talk about the show to anyone until a week before the episode aired in October, when she could chat about her appearance – but not who won.
After the airdate, reaction was incredible, Peach said, with support from friends, family and strangers across the country.
“I heard so many kind things, about the product and my performance.”
While her cake didn’t win $25,000 or a space on SuperStore shelves, Peach’s baking is going places. Her recipe’s fame has bloomed into a small business and she’s selling the finished products locally, including the Orange Chocolate Silk Cake.
“Why not see if it is something I would like to do seriously?” she said. “Ideally I would love to see a restaurant to pick up my desserts.”
Eventually, she would like to own her own dessert restaurant where “amazingly decadent desserts” will be the star of the show.
Peach’s decadent dessert featured on Recipe to Riches is an Orange Chocolate Silk Cake, featuring a chocolate silk (halfway between mousse and truffles) with orange chocolate ganache, mandarin oranges and whipped cream.
“The French silk is really the star of it,” she said, of the “decadent, smooth, rich, moist cake.”
Some moistness was sacrificed as she made 200 individual small cakes instead of 20 large ones on the show, Peach said, but it was still delicious.
Peach sells her cakes locally and, for those who want to try to recreate the Chocolate Silk star at home, the recipe is available on the Recipe to Riches website.
Did you know?
The cable reality show Recipe to Riches features home cooks with original recipes competing for $25,000, shelf space as a Loblaw’s President’s Choice product and a chance at a grand prize of $250,000. There were three Nova Scotians in season one: Peach, Keseluk and grand prize winner Glo McNeill.