MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Steve Weiss has been competing in cooking challenges for 15 years, but this is his first-ever Christmas-themed competition.
Weiss, the culinary arts program coordinator and instructor at Blue Ridge Technical and Community College, is competing for a $50,000 prize on Food Network Channel’s “Cake Wars: Christmas.”
Weiss has competed in several different competitions and has even had to turn some down, but he said this was an opportunity he couldn’t resist.
“As a kid you always want to be a part of something Christmas and it’s still something I want to be a part of,” Weiss said.
“You never know if you’ll get another chance like this, it’s not something that I could pass up,” he added.
Weiss is a part of the Mistletoes of Mayhem, where he will compete in two rounds of challenges during each episode. The second episode aired last night and Weiss and his team will continue on competing for the grand prize.
“Cake Wars: Christmas” is Weiss’s first multi-episode challenge series where he will continuously compete.
“It’s lot more mind, it’s more physical. It’s just more taxing on your mind and physically, which makes it lot more difficult,” Weiss said.
Weiss’s last appearance on Food Network was in 2014’s “King of Cones,” which was his first experience being a part of a series premiere, although he only appeared on one episode. Previously, has has been on one-episode challenges throughout the 15 years on the Food Network.
Weiss said when he appeared on the first episode “Cake Wars: Christmas,” he had one thought.
“Ultimately your end goal is to go all the way, but in the first episode your goal is to not be the first one to go home, you just didn’t want to be them,” Weiss said.
Weiss and his team won the first challenge on the first episode, which he said gave him a boost of confidence. It was called the stocking stuffer challenge. Weiss said one of the producer’s from the movie “Frozen” was there and they had to recreate the movie character Olaf in a different setting.
The Mistletoes of Mayhem create Olaf in the Louisiana bayou. They created a big pot out of a melon and Weiss created sugar crayfish.
“It was executed perfectly and it really was the highlight of the episode,” Weiss said.
“One of the male judges, Charles, stood up and said to me ‘you’re a master at your craft,” he added.
The Cake Wars competition consists of seven teams composed of three people. Weiss’s title is sugar artist.
Weiss has over 20 year of professional experience serving as an executive pastry chef in the top casinos across the U.S.
Weiss said he fell into his expertise while in culinary school.
“I was going to school in Baltimore and when I showed up they had somehow put me down has a baker, so I thought I would just give it a shot and if I didn’t like it I would switch later on,” Weiss said.
“I ended up really loving it and I’ve been doing it ever since,” he added.
Creating art from sugar is a long process and during the second episode, Weiss had a mishap and broke a piece of his cake display.
“It takes time to put those things together, when any team goes through a misstep or has a broken product you just have to make a decision straight on the fly. To remake or take it away, and make it work with the overall theme,” Weiss said.
In this case, Weiss’s team took away the broken element and still executed their design.
Weiss says being a Food Network veteran has help him in this competition so far.
“I am usually always calm but it definitely gives you a sense of calmness,” Weiss said.
“And the crew that you work with, they genuinely want you to do well, you see them every day even the people you are up against so they become people that you see, so you don’t get as intimidated,” he added.
Weiss said ultimately you just have to focus on the task at hand and not let it get to you.
“You have to come to a conclusion that you are performing in front of a bunch of individuals, and in the end it’s going to be seen by millions of people, so you just have to keep that out of your head,” Weiss said.
Weiss will continue on to his third episode next week. “Cake Wars: Christmas” aires on the Food Network every Monday at 9 p.m.
-Staff writer Katiann Marshall can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 182, or at Twitter.com/KmarshallJN.