Pastry chef Max Santiago is returning to television. The former Salty Donut and Sugar Factory chef, who won first place on Cooking Channel's Sugar Showdown in September 2016, will appear on Food Network’s Best Baker in America, premiering Monday, May 7.
Santiago, who recently left his post as corporate pastry chef for Sugar Factory, has kept busy as a pastry consultant for Miami-area businesses.
Most important, he's in the planning stages for his own Miami doughnut shop, expected to open in March 2019.
"The timing was finally right to do another show," Santiago says. "It's also unbelievable exposure for myself and my new place."
On the Food Network show, nine bakers from across the nation, including Santiago, will compete for $25,000 and the title of Best Baker in America.
Celebrity chef Scott Conant, responsible for Scarpetta at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, will host the show. Jason Smith and Marcela Valladolid, who are both chefs and Food Network personalities, will judge the competition. Each week, they will be joined by a panel of guest judges.
Throughout the seven-episode season, contestants will be challenged with creating elegant and toothsome interpretations of classic baked goods such as petit fours, French-influenced meringue layer cake, and strawberry shortcake. They'll also be judged on their mastery of technical baking skills and ability to work with various flavors and ingredients.
"I feel like I grew a lot with this show," Santiago says. "It's interesting because it's the complete opposite of the way you're supposed to do pastry: There's no time to be patient. You've got to produce something really complicated at superhigh speeds. You don't even have time to let an oven preheat."
This isn't Santiago's first foray into television. He and Salty Donut cofounder Andy Rodriguez won the Cooking Channel's Sugar Showdown. They created three doughnuts on show, including a cannoli-inspired variety.
More than a year and a half after that victory, Santiago is concentrating on opening his first solo venture. The chef declined to divulge too many details.
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"I don't want to say too much right now, but what I can say is the shop will be focused on doughnuts and include sweet and savory items."
The final episode of Best Baker in America is scheduled to air Monday, June 18. Santiago cannot comment on the outcome but says he's proud and excited.
"I really didn't care about the money," he says. "I did this show to help overcome my stage fright and to get exposure. I believe in myself a lot more now. I can't wait for everyone to watch and then to see what I have in store for the future."