I recently had the opportunity to speak with Recipe to Riches cake category winner Jacqui Keseluk about her experience on the show. I also wanted to learn a little bit more about her culinary training, that fabulous $25,000 award-winning President’s Choice Rock ‘n Peach Bliss Cheesecake and her future foodie dreams.
Jacqui found out about the contest thanks to her mom who saw an ad for the auditions in the newspaper. It took her a while to think it over before she threw her name into the hat to try and win the huge prize of $250,000. At the time she was a student at Nova Scotia Community College as a pastry chef which put her eligibility into question. It was decided that because she was still just a student with no professional experience yet she could enter! Fate was on her side.
I was surprised to find out that the auditions were not nerve wracking for her at all, thanks to her experience studying to be a pastry chef and being under the foodie microscope on a regular basis. Due to her previous experience meeting Food Network Canada stars like Anna Olson and Michael Smith, the panel for Recipe to Riches did not rattle her nerves one bit.
THE FOODIE CHALLENGE
When the contestants were told they were going to have to create 200 of their cakes they had no idea that challenge was coming and they did not have their recipe. The show focused a lot on Jacqui’s issues with handling the math which she found very embarrassing. She assured me she used to be better at math in high school and is thinking about taking a course to help prepare her for future large scale orders.
One of the most dramatic moments of the cake episode for me was her realization that one half of her sponge cakes only had half the amount of eggs! This resulted in chewier cakes for half the batch and still around 90% of the people who tasted her Rock ‘n Peach Bliss Cheesecake said they would buy it. When I asked her about that dreadful moment of realization she exclaimed, “It was terrible!”
When I asked where the inspiration for the cake come from she said baking ideas and flavour combinations often just pop into her head. This one, like many others, came to her when she was driving to school.
When you compare the cheesecake on the show with the one you buy at the store, they look very different. Jacqui explained there is no healthy/chemical-free way to freeze whipped cream so they omitted it.
My curiosity got the best of me when it came to the panel of judges and their issues with Jacqui’s appearance, especially her tattoos. She said that in the audition they were quite enthusiastic about her look and even said they could see her as being her own “brand.” Later on in the show it was clear that some of them were worried she was too “urban.”
I had to tell her that I doubted someone who came on the show would ever be told they were too “rural” and that a huge portion of the population of Canada lives in cities. This part of the episode really upset me and thought their concerns were out of date. Jacqui said it was confusing because she grew up outside the city in a small town and this is just who she is. So far the public has only been very supportive about her look and “brand,” which I was thrilled to hear.
QUESTIONS FROM READERS
Deb on Facebook wrote: LOVE YOU JACQUI !! Are you happy with how your recipe was translated to the mass market???
Jacqui said, “I personally am,” but she said there had been quite a few negative comments and reviews of the cake which I gather must have been very disappointing. People seemed to be surprised at how different the cake looked which obviously has thrown people off.
I have to pipe in here and say that there were also many positive reviews! Words like “phenomenal,” “delicious” and “Om nom nom” were among the few and I completely agree with this particular comment, “Have tried many frozen cheesecakes and this is by far my favorite. The cake crust was absolutely delicious! The cheesecake was very light and not too sweet.” Bang on!
Matt on Facebook wrote: Do you prefer baking to cooking and why?
Jacqui was quite clear that baking was for the public, that she loves it when people enjoy her sweet treats, and her love of cooking is shared at home with her boyfriend.
Matt also wanted to ask: Do you have any tips for baking a successful cake?
Jacqui also suggests going by touch as opposed to timing or the old toothpick method. Touch the top and if it bounces back, it is done!
JACQUI’S FUTURE FOODIE PLANS
I admitted to Jacqui that part of me selfishly wants her to win because Fall River and the surrounding area absolutely needs a real cafe. I wanted to know more about her dream pastry stop.
She is planning on opening it in Fall River. She said the area is really growing and developing, has a varied yet affluent demographic including stay at home moms, business people and those who can afford to go and get a great cup of coffee and a French pastry. She dreams of it being an upscale cafe and I really hope she can make it happen, regardless of the outcome of the competition. I know it would be a huge success and Reg and I would be regulars.
When I asked how the contest had changed her life she said that it had helped it but not changed her path. This is what she has wanted to do since she was 15 and she is already working on a business plan to make her pastry shop a reality. If anyone can open a successful kick-ass bakery in Fall River, it is quite clear Jacqui Keseluk will rock that dream out of the park.