Sarah Levy will probably win on Food Network Challenge this weekend

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Illustration: Barry Bruner


On Sunday night, Sarah Levy, chef-owner of [node:136747 link=Sarah’s Pastries and Candies;], will appear on Food Network Challenge, where she will compete against other chefs to make an animatronic dinosaur cake.

Want to know if she wins? She isn't saying. Seriously. I consider Levy a personal friend, and she won't even tell me.

Not that that kept me from asking. (Besides, she answered a few other questions about her experience taping the show):

So—do you win?
[Laughs.] Well David, as much as I would love to tell you the outcome, we are not allowed to say who won. So you'll have to find out on Sunday.

How about we play a game: If you won, clap twice.
When is this interview coming out? After Sunday?

No.
Then we can't play that game.

Fine. Moving on: When did you find out that this challenge would involve animatronic dinosaurs?
They tell you before you audition. They're like: It will be an extreme dinosaur cake challenge, which means there have to be extreme elements, like sound and smoke and definitely movement. They were like, Are you sure that's something you can do? And we were like Yeaaaah, even though we've never, ever done anything like that whatsoever. But we just figured, Well, okay, we'll just figure it out... hopefully.

So you created a moving dinosaur cake?
Yup.

And you had never done anything like that before?
Noooooo. Not even close.

And would you ever do anything like that again?
I mean, it's one of those things. I would do it again. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. It was three feet tall and six feet long! Because it had to be three feet tall, and in my head I was like, Oh, well, four legs would be better than two because it would make it more stable. But if you think about it, it then has to be so wide, because it's three feet tall and you have to make it proportionate.

Will you make that cake for customers now?
We're going to have a cake that will look just like the cake that we make on Sunday for the Challenge, but it will be a much smaller version.

But what if I want the exact cake you make on the Challenge as my wedding cake?
If somebody wants that cake, it will be $10,000, which is what the prize was if you won the challenge. But theoretically, we could. But we can make a smaller, beautiful version for $500.

But it won't move.
It won't move. Very good point. But it will still look cool.

I want a dinosaur cake that will walk across my desk.
[Silence.]

So...do you win the challenge?
Oh, I forgot to answer that! Nice try.

Had you watched the Food Network Challenge before they called you to appear on it?
To be honest I had never seen the show before they called. But I watched it religiously while we were training.

Does the show make the challenge look harder or easier than it actually is?
Our whole strategy was "prepare like a warrior." So to me, the most challenging part was the very beginning of the training here in Chicago...figuring out our plan of attack and practicing it. Once we actually got there, because we had practiced so much, things went relatively smooth. I guess the answer would be that it does look a little bit harder than it actually is.

What I always wonder is how much the taste of the cake matters in these competitions.
Literally, out of the 100 points, zero points were for taste in this challenge.

So tell me about the viewing party [Levy is holding a viewing party at Mastro's on Sunday; details [node:14896809 link=here;]]—it's a fundraiser?
A portion of the proceeds go to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, in honor of our chef, Rafael Ornelas. He passed away at the end of May. He really helped so many people get started in pastry. He had such a passion for pastry, that was pretty much contagious.

What a lot of people don't know is that Rafael has been behind the scenes for a lot of pastry in Chicago.
Yeah, yeah. [node:14787355 link=Patrick Fahy;] called me when he found out what happened, because he was an intern under Rafael. So many people—so many people in the pastry world—worked under Rafael. And what's really cool is that Jimmy and Judy, the owners of [node:149023 link=Bittersweet;], are coming to the party. Rafael worked there for 12 years. And that's where I met Rafael—he was my boss there. His mom's going to be there, too, which is really cool, and his sister and brother, nieces and nephews. So we're excited to be able to do that, and have Rafael there in spirit.


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