Winning Halloween contest a sweet treat for Notre Dame’s executive pastry chef | Community

It was a sweet victory for Sinai Vespie on the Food Network’s “Halloween Baking Championship.” She beat out 10 other chefs/bakers in Los Angeles. The competition took place in the summer and was broadcast in the fall. A temporary tent kitchen was set up to keep everyone safe.

Sinai is the executive pastry chef at the University of Notre Dame and lives in Mishawaka. Her creations are at the Morris Inn, Legends, Duncan Student Center and other places on campus.

It took 15 days to film and it was great fun, according to Sinai. Like other competitions, there are judges, challenges, presentations and the one at the bottom of the leaderboard hits the road. At one point, she slid into last place, but she roared back.

“It was a blast. You don’t want to fall on your face, but it was fantastic. I’d do it again,” she said.

Each episode was a little twisted in keeping with the Halloween theme, such as a dessert based on a biggest fear or a goblin-style sweet. Interesting ingredients such as beets or chili peppers were incorporated into the creations.

Her creations included a severed limb cake and homemade toffee spiders on a mausoleum made from dark chocolate stout cake with salted caramel buttercream layers, a peanut butter ganache and a toffee crunch. Creepy or not, it sounds marvelous.

Her victory baked item was an inverted cake with the smallest layer on the bottom. It was an orange vanilla cake with chocolate coconut ganache and passion fruit buttercream.

These baked masterpieces led to her taking home $25,000.

How did she get chosen to participate? The network approached her and she went through some online interviews before she was chosen. “I wanted to do it before, but the time wasn’t right,” she said.

Sinai has been at Notre Dame for nearly four years. Before that, she was the pastry chef at the Tampa Marriott Waterside. She studied at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts program in Orlando and the Orlando Culinary Academy Patisserie and Baking Associate Program.

Her heart was into baking early, learning at her grandmother’s table and visiting an uncle’s bakery in Florida.

After the competition, she could not tell anyone what happened. It all has to be a secret until the broadcast. When it aired, she received countless emails from friends and family congratulating her. The culinary staff was proud as punch. “I love my Notre Dame family,” she said

As the holidays were approaching, she said she was busy at home but not really baking. “We really don’t do that much.”

She saves it up for Notre Dame.

Quarantine Notes and Thoughts

I forgot to wish you Merry Christmas last week. Much like my holiday cards, I’m a little behind. In the meantime, let’s all have a good New Year. Please, let it be good. Let’s hope everything improves soon.

Have you noticed that many of Santa’s elves were British? In commercials, of course. The real elves come from many countries.

Here’s a strange little side story, thanks to the internet. I received an email from a genealogy fan in South Africa who was researching the Matthys family in Belgium. He wanted to know if I could help him. He also wanted to know how I was related to them. He apparently found a few stories that I had done.

What? How did he draw that conclusion? I passed it on to the Matthys family in hopes of getting some help. I’ll see if I am included in any wills, since I’m a long lost relative.

Recently I walked around Walgreens and two things hit me. First, 2021 New Year’s decorations — hats and noisemakers. Who is going to do that?

The other thing was a Monopoly game with IU Bloomington locations. One spot on the game board is named after IU president “Herman B. Wells Library.” Rookie mistake, no period after the B. Everyone is overjoyed to know a nitpicker.

Next we will discuss “half mast vs. half staff.”

Rebecca R. Ammons

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