With 90 seconds on the clock, a baker expertly strings hot sugar over a tower of golden brown croquembouche. In his ear, cookbook author and supermodel Lorraine Pascale whisper-chants one word over and over: “Emmarose. Emmarose. Emmarose.”
At the next cooking station, another baker feverishly attaches macarons to a cardboard cone, hands shaking as she stacks the delicate colored cookies.
When the timer buzzes, Lorraine’s whispers turn to shouted excitement.
“That looks amazing,” Lorraine tells her teammate about his tower of puff pastries. “Imagine if Emmarose saw that! She’d be like, ‘my daddy made that!’”
In front of millions of viewers watching the season finale of Food Network’s “Worst Bakers in America,” Lorraine’s words opened a floodgate of emotions for Mishawaka resident Chris Scott. Removing his glasses, Chris wiped away the tears built up during a stressful series of baking challenges.
“Not too long ago, Chris and Melody burned everything they’ve touched,” Lorraine said during the final judging one the finale. “But they’ve come such a long way from where they started.”
Five weeks before, Chris was more apt to be pulling burnt pastries out of his oven than serving edible, attractive desserts. On a whim and a suggestion from his now 4-year-old daughter, Emmarose, Chris decided to throw his hat in the ring for the second season.
“My family and I are big Food Network buffs,” he says. “One night my wife and our kids were sitting in our bed before bedtime, and my daughter said, ‘daddy, you need to be on the show!’ And I said, ‘that’s kind of harsh.’”
However, Chris concedes that the extent of his baking expertise came from reading the side of a box of cake or brownie mix.
“[‘Worst Bakers in America’] is a baking boot camp,” Chris says, weeks after the show aired on Foot Network. “There are eight contestants, all of which were nominated either by their family members or selected by a home video process.”
In his contest submission video, Chris pulls a batch of smoking, dilapidated brownies out of an oven. His daughter exclaims, “What happened, Daddy? Did your brownies burn? Eww!”
Chris, who works at Costco in Mishawaka, describes himself as a performer. Michiana residents may have seen him in shows at Southwestern Michigan College or at various venues throughout the region in productions put on by The Main Stage, a nonprofit in Mishawaka. In fact, an audience at Bethel College once saw Chris, portraying the title character in “Shrek: The Musical,” propose to his wife on stage.
Chris’ stage experience seemed to prepare him well for his on-camera debut, as he often cracked jokes during intense competitions to lighten the mood for his fellow competitors.
During the first episode, all eight competitors were tasked with creating their dream dessert as judges Lorraine Pascale and Jason Smith watched closely, preparing to select their teams.
Chris ultimately ended up on the red team with coach Lorraine, who taught him a series of techniques and coached him through most bakes.
At first, Chris says he was star struck being in the same room as Lorraine and Jason, who are both frequent judges on Food Network shows. Jason, a southern self-taught baker, got his start on “Holiday Baking Championship,” which Lorraine judged and Jason won.
“These are people you would never in a million years meet in person unless you’ve been on Food Network,” Chris says. “As time went by, they were these down to earth, passionate people. The fact that they took time out of their schedules to be coaches on this show was just incredible.”
Kitchen heats up
Each episode contained a baking lesson from Lorraine and Jason, at least one baking test, judging and elimination.
“It was an emotional time when two of us — one from each team — got eliminated,” Chris says. “We all just clicked.”
When they were not on camera, the contestants typically enjoyed meals together and toured New York, where the show was filmed. Though filming was in April and May and the show has since aired, Chris says contestants continue to keep in touch via group text messaging.
Although he had a few mishaps in the kitchen, Chris survived all the way to the finale, baking a series of desserts ranging from cookies and tarts to cakes and pies.
“I’d have to say the multi-colored mirror cake with the mirror glaze was my favorite bake,” Chris says. “As a big guy, I love cake, but the technique was really cool.”
In another episode, Chris struggled to make a tartlet, which the judges called “flavorless.” However, Lorraine decided to keep Chris on her team.
While Chris did not ultimately take home the $25,000 prize his opponent Melody received, he is proud of the progress he made as a baker during the show, and says he was happy to get home to his family.
“I didn’t go home a loser, for sure. I definitely was able to keep my head up,” Chris says. “The experience was a win in and of itself.”
Since competing in “Worst Bakers in America,” Chris’ passion for baking has exploded.
“I still talk to [coach] Jason to this day,” Chris says. “We talk back and forth about ideas, and he encourages me.”
This fall, when Chris clocks out from his stocking shift at Costco, he can often be found honing his skills in another kitchen.
“I’m enrolled at Ivy Tech in their culinary program with a focus on baking and pastries,” Chris says. “It’s a passion that I had within me, but once I did the show, it really drove home that this is what I want to do with my life.”
Chris says he is thankful for the support of his family and looking forward to other opportunities in the kitchen. He says the Food Network crew was great to work with.
“I would do another show at the drop of a hat, no problem,” Chris says. “It’s such a good experience. They treat you like one of the family.”
Chris is contracted with Food Network for one year from the date the finale aired, so he may see another stint on a Food Network show.
While he continues to perfect his pastries, Chris can be found at home in his kitchen, his trusty sidekick by his side. Emmarose is happy that her daddy’s baking has improved.