Cherry Hill pastry chef Anirudh Mamtora never imagined he would appear on a competitive show in the United States, let alone a show on The Food Network.
But when he was chosen as one of 10 contestants to complete Halloween Baking Championship season seven, he was thrilled to have the chance to share his talents on the big screen.
âIt was a very, very big moment, especially for me and the family and family in India,â said Mamtora. “It was a huge, huge moment.”
As host John Henson puts it, the contestants have a “totally tubular time” as they “create mouthwatering and mind-blowing desserts” to win $ 25,000 and the title of Halloween Baking Champion.
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The show, which first aired in 2015, is now in its seventh season and features the best bakers in the country. Like Mamtora, they use their dessert expertise to fight through the spooky season.
The first episode of the new season aired on September 13.
Although Mamtora did not win the competition, he was happy to gain the experience needed to work with talented chefs.
âI would say the experience has been really, really great,â said Mamtora. âI mean, I didn’t really expect to make good friends in the competition that I did. So I think somehow I won, making new friends and connections. rather than losing the competition, which was only part of the picture. “
From pastry school to the big screen
Mamtora’s pastry career began in France, where he studied the basics of pastry with French chefs thanks to an exchange grant.
Although he has been baking and cooking since the age of 5 in his home country of India, it was while studying hotel management at university that he decided to combine his passions for art and gastronomy and to continue learning pastry.
After his training, he traveled a bit in Europe, before returning to France. There he began to work in five-star hotels and gourmet restaurants.
Later, he changed course, worked on cruise ships and visited 35 countries, which expanded his dessert plate. He also taught pastry in India.
After marrying Ruchi Banker in India, the couple moved to Cherry Hill, where she lived.
Mamtora then attended French Pastry School in Chicago, where he took a diploma course called The Art of Cake for making ornate and decorative cakes.
From there he worked at the former Bleu Bear Bakery in Haddonfield as Head of Operations, developing gluten-free products.
âSo it was a learning curve as well as a challenge for me in terms of improving my product portfolio,â Mamtora recalled.
Mamtora worked at Haddonfield Bakery for about a year and a half before getting the opportunity to cook on The Food Network.
An instructor from his days at the French pastry school told Mamtora that the show would be a good opportunity for him to share the intricate and detailed work he excelled at at school.
The network approached Mamtora to audition for the TV contest, then he cooked and described his creations for producers on Zoom calls, before finally being selected for the show.
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âAt first I couldn’t believe it when I got the email, then I got a call right away from the producer and I was like, ‘Are you kidding, this can’t be true! ‘”, recalls Mamtora.
âI wasn’t even holding my breath because I knew there were a lot of talented peopleâ¦ I didn’t see myself being chosen for the show. And once I found out, it really took me a long time to actually see that I’m actually going to be a part of the Food Network show.
With the show behind him, Mamtora is excited to be working on a new business – a line of healthy desserts for retail.
He’s working with Washington, DC-based Union Kitchen as part of their Accelerate Program, to help take his concept from startup to success. He hopes to start the business next year.
âMy plan is to make a healthy dessert that’s good for the gut, something you can snack on without worrying about having a lot of calories,â Mamtora said.
“A fusion” of classical French training and Indian spices
On the show, Mamtora challenged her expertise in French baking and her Indian origins, incorporating traditional techniques with daring combinations of flavors.
âI’ve always been inclined towards French desserts and French techniques, as well as – because I have an Indian cultural background, I have knowledge of a lot of spices,â Mamtora said. âSo I always try to merge the two. “
In the first episode, he created a chocolate ganache pie with a peanut butter dulce de leche crumble like âCereal Killerâ for the first challenge and a cardamom and rosewater infused sponge cake with a raspberry jam topping for the second âreally nerve-rackingâ challenge. , as Mamtora describes.
Episode two featured a team effort from Mamtora and California contestant Ashley Wong. The two created a pistachio saffron shortbread cookie with a cayenne fudge topping and royal vanilla icing for the first challenge.
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In the second challenge, the two made individual halves of a spicy cardamom cake – Mamtora layered hers with a white chocolate cardamom ganache with toasted flaked almonds and simple coconut syrup.
Sadly, Mamtora ended up in the bottom four of the count and entered the ‘Sudden Death’ round, where he was challenged as a vegetarian to bake a hand pie in the shape of a severed hand, incorporating meat.
He created a hand-made pie filled with pineapple, passion fruit, pecans and bacon and a passion fruit, pineapple and maple sauce – which doesn’t. was not quite well received by the judges.
Despite an unfavorable outcome, Mamtora believes she made the most of the experience, which prompted her to step out of her comfort zone to learn and grow.
âI think it was a big win for me because if I hadn’t been in this position I would never have seen myself pushed beyond my limits,â said Mamtora. “As long as I could develop and win more from all the competition on a personal level, I am more than happy.”
Try something new this holiday
Halloween was a “foreign concept” to Mamtora until he moved to the United States, as there is no holiday like Halloween in India and other countries in Southeast Asia, he said. -he explains.
When he learned more about the holidays, Mamtora quickly fell in love with the spooky season, especially designing holiday-themed desserts.
“I started making desserts that were scary and a little bit disgusting and not so presentable to youâ¦ I kind of started to fall in love with them (the holidays) because it was a way of doing just about everything which I wanted and not to be judged or which does not conform to a specific set of [dessert designs]. ”
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For all home bakers, Mamtora recommends trying her âKillerâ Challenge Cake this Halloween – especially experimenting with its bold flavor combinations like cayenne pepper, raspberries, cardamom, and rosewater.
âIt’s something you wouldn’t do as often or normally on Halloween, but it would be a fun twist to put these things together and see for yourself,â Mamtora suggested.
You can also decorate desserts such as its macaroons with a garnish infused with spices and caricatures of mummies or pumpkins.
âHalloween is something that everyone should take a moment and sit down and think of things that they could do so much differently if they do some kind of baking and not be judged (for changing from trying to new flavors). “
Halloween Baking Competition airs Mondays at 9 p.m. EST on the Food Network. You can watch Mamtora episodes on The Food Network, Hulu, Discovery Plus, or YouTube TV.
Hira Qureshi covers food and drink for the Courier Post, Burlington County Times, Daily Journal, Bucks County Times andSpy. She can be reached at [email protected] or 856-287-8106. Help support local journalism with a digital subscription.