Halloween will be here before we know it and the theme of “Dangerous Decadence” was on the minds of the producers of Chopped Sweets!
For those of you not familiar with Chopped, this is an excerpt from their webpage: In a sweet spinoff of the ultimate culinary competition, host Scott Conant challenges four bold pastry artists to take on one of the toughest tests of their lives. Faced with baffling basket ingredients and an unrelenting clock, the sensational, sugar-savvy chefs must demonstrate their skill, concentration and imagination as they race to see who will claim the $10,000 prize.
And what, you may ask, does this have to do with Il Volo? Well, let me tell you!
Our own “little cupcake” and one of our younger Ilvolovers, Emilia Tomaszycki, is a pastry chef and will be on the upcoming episode of Chopped Sweets! – “Dangerous Decadence!” tonight, Sep 15, on the Food Network Channel at 10p EST. If you don’t have cable, you can still watch it live at this link: https://www.foodnetwork.com/shows/chopped-sweets
Beware of the baskets! The fear factor is off the charts when the competing chefs must work with some dangerously delicious ingredients — like the scary, hairy creepy-crawly in the first basket! From poisonous to moldy to superstinky, the second basket delivers on the deadly theme, and one of the judges is appalled by what she sees in the third basket. Can she overcome her phobia in time to enjoy the final desserts?
Although Emilia has been keeping quite busy, as she is currently on a special assignment near Denver, I was able to catch up to her while on a quick trip home to Michigan!
Jana: So, Emilia, tell us where you are from and where you are now.
Emilia: I am originally from Richmond, Michigan and am currently working as the pastry supervisor for the Ritz Carlton in Naples, Florida.
Jana: That’s so wonderful, Emilia, and at such a young age to have such responsibility! When did you know you wanted to be a pastry chef? Were your family and friends always supportive?
Emilia: From the age of about 14 I knew I wanted to be a pastry chef. I took the four basic Wilton Cake Decorating Courses at Joanne Fabrics and Michael’s craft stores, which ignited my passion. I got my first job at a small hometown bakery, at which I was soon promoted to head cake decorator. It was then that I knew I wanted to go to college for this. I finished high school and started college that fall at the Culinary Institute of Michigan. From there I received my associate in baking and pastry only to move on to the real world. My family and friends were always very supportive right from the beginning.
Jana: Becoming a pastry chef is a very challenging career to choose with a lot of competition. What were some obstacles you encountered along the way?
Emilia: One of the biggest obstacles for a woman in the culinary industry is professionalism and being taken seriously. It’s not easy to make a name in this culinary world, but especially not for women who are still looked down upon. This is an old-fashioned way of thinking and it is slowly changing, as many female culinary and pastry rock stars are rising up.
Jana: I’m sure you have had several positions leading up to your current job. Which job would you say was your favorite so far?
Emilia: My favorite position is the one I’m in now; a pastry supervisor at the Ritz Carlton Naples, Florida. I’ve worked so hard every day for each new position, so I can definitely say that I’m happy to be where I’m at now.
Jana: Do you have a favorite dessert to make? What is the easiest thing to make that looks difficult?
Emilia: My favorite dessert to make would have to be an entremet, or an intricately layered torte. The flavor combinations are endless and curling into the work of art to reveal all the layers is so satisfying. The easiest thing for me to make that looks the most difficult is probably a wedding cake. I’ve been doing wedding cakes for 8+ years so they have almost become relaxing yet thrilling for me. Each one is always different and unique but pleasing to the eye when finished.
Jana: How long did you want to be on Chopped Sweets? How long did it take? Was it a long or hard process? Did you have to go through various interviews? Were you able to meet any other celebrity chefs while you were there?
Emilia: I knew I eventually wanted to be on TV, but I hadn’t set any timelines for myself. I had received an email about Chopped Sweets and I just so happened to be sitting in a 3-hour layover. I filled out the application and within 24 hours the casting company was calling me asking for more interviews, pictures, videos, and more. The whole process took several months, but again I had no timeline for myself. I got to meet the judges on the show and of course made some life-long friends because of it. I was under contract, so I couldn’t say anything to my coworkers or friends. It was one of the hardest secrets I had to keep, especially after we filmed the show.
Jana: What got you through the last few months when no one was working?
Emilia: During quarantine when I wasn’t working, I honestly didn’t bake much. It was my time to relax my hands and sit down and write new menus. I FaceTimed my friends often and tried to not think about work too much. That time really helped me to refocus on what I wanted in life.
Jana: Was being on Chopped the most challenging thing you’ve ever done so far? Would you do it again?
Emilia: Being on Chopped was one of the most challenging, yet riveting things I’ve ever done. You see these baking competitions on tv and think, “Oh I could do that! These people just don’t know what they are doing.” Until you’re on the show, 20 cameras are pointed at you, you’re taped and strapped with hidden microphones, and you have 25 minutes to create a dish with unknown items in the basket in front of you. It’s terrifying and I can’t deny that I sat backstage at one point trying not to throw up. Would I do it all again? In a heartbeat! I loved it! The experience was unlike any other. I miss it already!
Jana: Thank you, Emilia, what an honest response. Is there anything you’d like to add that we haven’t already covered on this topic?
Emilia: I’d like to say, you never know what you’re capable of until you try it. I stepped out of my comfort zone once again and I made it on the show. Always try to push yourself a little beyond your limits, to help you discover the unknown.
Jana: Thank you Emilia, for telling us a bit about your background and the show. Now, let’s talk about how you came to know Il Volo and how we met you…
How did you discover Il Volo?
Emilia: I discovered Il Volo right after they did their first concert at the Detroit Opera House. My first concert of theirs that I went to was at Freedom Hill in 2014.
Jana: What a coincidence, Emilia – that was my first concert as well! 😊
Emilia: I became a huge fan, so of course I wanted to find others that were equally as intrigued as I was. The Detroit Il Volo fan club Facebook page became more and more popular where I grew to know the Detroit Il Volo Gals! I don’t believe I started it though.
Jana: Yes, I remember having a similar experience and also combed FaceBook trying to find any fan pages and came upon the Detroit Il Volo fan club page. I remember being intrigued at seeing there was a group getting together to celebrate Gianluca’s birthday at a local Italian restaurant. I remember I responded myself and one other person would be attending. I think Donna (one of our Detroit Il Volo Gals) was on there as well.
Emilia: Yes, Donna and I had met through the Facebook page then finally we met in person. She is the absolute sweetest thing! She and I helped coordinate the Gianluca gathering and we’ve been going there ever since. Unfortunately, with not being in Michigan very much anymore, I can seldom join the group to celebrate, but I do, whenever I get the chance!
Jana: I made reference to calling you “cupcake” in the beginning of this interview, I hope you are ok with it? 😊 I recall that Donna often called you cupcake as well, did she start that? It’s certainly the perfect nickname for you!
Emilia: Donna has called me cupcake ever since I can remember and I love it! It’s kind of nostalgic for me. My dad has always called me cupcake because when I was about 3 years old, I used to wear these cupcake pajamas that were my favorite. So, then the nickname was given to me!
Jana: Many of us often give the guys gifts at the meet and greets. Did you ever bring them anything?
Emilia: One year I had made a dessert box to bring to the boys to give to them after the concert at the meet and greet. They seemed to like everything! I tried to make some dairy free things for Piero at the time too. It made me happy to see them happy.
Jana: Yes, I remember that and seeing their happy faces. Just so you know, I believe the Chicago concert was after the Detroit one and I recall asking Piero at that meet and greet if they liked the pastries, he said they did! 😊
Ok Emilia, one last question, who is your favorite Il Volo guy?
Emilia:Piero, of course! 😊
Thank you, Emilia for spending some time with us today. I would wish you well on Chopped, but we know it’s already been taped! However, we hope you did well and weren’t the first one to be chopped!
Ok everyone, be sure to watch Emilia and the rest of the Chopped contestants tonight, Tuesday, September 15, 2020 at 10p EST! Don’t worry if you miss it, it airs again the next night!
You can also follow Emilia on Instagram at “Pastry_Panache”