Pastry chef Sohrob Esmaili says his job creating baked goods for the restaurants at San Francisco’s Proper Hotel is quite unlike competing on the Food Network’s “Spring Baking Championship.”
“It’s extremely different. They have cool equipment,” he says, but at the same time, it was hard to quickly find the ingredients he needed in the TV show set’s fully stocked kitchen.
Then there was the fact that, “They have cameras coming at you and are asking questions when you’re trying to bake.”
Even though he didn’t get a lot of screen time in season six’s first episode which aired last week – the show runs Monday nights until the winner is announced on April 27 – Esmaili, 29, was safe with his strawberry and lemon treat in the first round, a geometric fruit tart challenge.
In the main heat, in which the bakers were tasked with making trendy fault line cakes – which look like they have a piece missing, and the center shows through – Esmaili did OK with his blueberry cake with lemon curd decorated with a “sun and rain” nature theme.
“I was the only one that seasoned well,” he adds, describing the twist in which the bakers had to add salt to their recipes.
Esmaili found judges Nancy Fuller, Duff Goldman and Lorraine Pascale detailed and complete in their critiques – their “minutes of” comments for each contestant were edited heavily for the final show – and said he liked Goldman best.
“I watched his show ‘Ace of Cakes.’ I’m into him. He’s a self-made entrepreneur,” adding that’s where his own sensibilities lie.
Growing up in Southern California, Esmaili, who lives in Bernal Heights, enjoyed cooking since he was a kid and was encouraged by his mother, with whom he watched Julia Child.
It was a turning point when the family got a KitchenAid mixer, and he continued to bake (chocolate cookies with chocolate chips were and are still favorites, as are oatmeal cookies with nuts and golden raisins) through high school.
He went on to study at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena and the Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York before landing jobs in New York City, including a stint in the restaurant at the Whitney Museum.
He was thinking of coming back to California when he heard about Proper Hotel in San Francisco.
He started there a few months after it opened, and in 2019 got promoted to head of the pastry department, heading up a team of eight and creating menus of savories, sweets and bread.
In tonight’s second “Spring Baking Championship” episode, he’s making glazed doughnuts, and an entremet, or French mousse cake, with finely tuned colors.
But as Esmaili competes for a $25,000 prize, he’s already feeling a winner. Not only has he become friendly, and kept in touch with, his competitors from across the country, he’s been praised for his fun floral shirt wardrobe by host Clinton Kelly.