San Diegan wins Holiday Baking Championship

Maeve Rochford is the owner of Sugar and Scribe Bakery in La Jolla, California and she has been busy in recent times. This San Diegan is the new sweet treats lady and everyone needs to know about her, especially as she is the recent winner of the Food Networks Holiday Baking Championship!

For the last seven weeks Maeve has been taking on challenge after challenge baking for the Holiday Baking Show hosted by Bobby Deen. Deen is a “Georgia Boy” and runs The Lady & Sons with brother Jamie in Savannah, Georgia.

Maeve has also been under the watchful eye of the 3 judges including Nancy Fuller who is the host of Farmhouse Rules, Lorraine Pascale who is an author and television host and, one of my favorites to watch, Duff Goldman who is the owner of Charm City Cakes in Baltimore and Los Angeles.

Looking for the greatest holiday baker, eight bakers bring their skill and share family traditions each week and offer up their delectable’s for the judges to taste and critique. Each week one baker leaves piping the competition down to the final three.

Maeve pulled out all the stops in the final challenge risking everything, including her fingers, to a hot bag of isomalt making a beautiful candied sleigh for her masterpiece. The cake consisted of three tiered Sleigh Ride Cocoa Cake with Chocolate Ganache and Marshmallow Filling with Cinnamon Nutmeg butter cream frosting.

Sound awesome? Well, the judges thought so as well and awarded Maeve the $50,000 prize along with bragging rights. I had the opportunity to speak with Maeve after her win to discover where her ideas come from and what is next for the Food Network’s Holiday Baking Champion!

Jeri Jacquin: Good morning Maeve and a very big congratulations for winning the Food Network’s Holiday Baking competition!

Maeve Rochford: Good morning Jeri and thank you so much.

JJ: I’m a huge fan of the show so having it coming to San Diego is a real treat.

MR: We are hometown proud here as well. I love the city of La Jolla and how they have just taken us in.

JJ: Were you a big fan of the show before you becoming a contestant?

MR: Absolutely, I love the Food Network and I have studied the Food Network competitions religiously.

JJ: What made you decide to jump into an oven of judges?

MR: Nancy Fuller is a tough critic and Lorraine certainly knew what she wanted out of us as well.

JJ: What made you decide to compete though? It’s so much pressure!

MR: I’m a very competitive person. Since the seventh grade I’ve always been into extremely high levels of competition. My grade school and high school rowing team was number one in the country and I received an athletic scholarship going to a school that was both academic and sports challenging. The one thing that is most important is that I have had such tremendous support from my grandmother, my father, my aunt and uncle. I mean they are all just crazy supportive. My mother-in-law did dishes when I first opened, my first delivery was done by my dad and my husband helped so very much.

JJ: Knowing what you do know about what it takes to compete in baking, has it changed the way you do things?

MR: No, I’ve always done the same exact thing. Some days when I first started we didn’t have that many items to sell because I would only sell that which was totally perfect. I stand by that decision and I think sticking with those high standards was important to me. The show hasn’t changed me in any way in regards to that. The only way it has changed me is that hopefully it will let more people know that we are here. That would be great because it means I can hire more people because I love helping people grow in this career that they want to be in.

JJ: Where does your inspiration come from and where do your flavor ideas come from? Is it trial and error or borrowing from family recipes?

MR: I generally start with emotion and find flavors that relate to those emotions. When I did the coconut macaroon with fennel and crushed pepper I was feeling super sassy at that time. I wanted to do something really bright and bold and pepper is very bold and that’s how I came up with it. I think when your cooking or baking the flavors you choose have to emulate how you feel and that’s how I do it.

JJ: Do you have any family recipes that you use?

MR: Oh yes, absolutely! My carrot cake recipe, pie fillings, coffee cakes as well as banana bread came from family. Everything we sell has a connection in some way to somebody that I love.

JJ: How is the reaction with your employees having gone through the competition?

MR: Great, my staff and I have always been really close. I tell them that when you put everything into this, there are big rewards. It’s very exciting to share this with them because we believe in giving everything you’ve got. I also think this has inspired them to become better in their own field. It’s all super exciting.

JJ: It is really interesting because most people wouldn’t think of coming up with the flavors combinations that you have. How do you get someone to try combinations that may not ever have before?

MR: I say try small, go to your local store and buy five or ten different spices and different types of nuts. Try them individually in their natural form with just a little on your tongue or a little nibble of the nut and just really think about it. Is it buttery? Is it salty? Think about how it makes you feel. Like with cinnamon, you definitely think of home and of the holidays, hot apple cider, and pie. Every bit causes an emotion. Then slowly try the spices or nuts together. There are classes you can take on flavor profiling and I’m hoping to teach classes like that here where I can show how to use these flavors in baking and learn to step outside of the box and make something honest to your own self.

JJ: What is your biggest seller?

MR: Definitely our Ginger Chews! We have so much for both the sweet and savory side. On our savory side I would say definitely our quiches and our Puff Pies having both Chick Puff Pie and BBQ Pork Pie. We also have Irish Specialties as well.

JJ: No wonder you can’t pick just one, they all sound heavenly.

MR: I won’t put anything out there that I won’t stand behind.

JJ: What do you think will change for you, other than people knowing now where you are now?

MR: I am hoping to expand and grow the brand with a Chef line and develop kits where I show you different ways to use the ingredients in the kits. All of this is to get people engaged in baking again. In this world we live in there is so much more out there with spices and ingredients that we’ve got to get everyone to try them all. Doing so allows us to create new stories. Like for me, some people say ‘what the heck is a chew?’ and once they try it they are amazed.

JJ: So basically what you are telling me is that if you didn’t have time before, you certainly have less now!

MR: Yes, I certainly am going to have less now but I will still sweep the floor and wipe the tables. I’ll do anything that I can do to support my business and support my staff.

JJ: Your family has got to be going nuts.

MR: Oh, they’re Irish so of course!

JJ: So of course you have Irish goods on your menu.

MR: Absolutely, we have Irish Carrot Cake, Irish Soda Bread and on the savory side there is Guinness Braised Beef Stew and Shepherd’s Pie. I would say that over half of my menu is Irish. I’m staying true!

JJ: Finally Maeve, what are you thoughts about everything you’ve have experienced that you’d like to share with our readers.

MR: I would say that if you are ever given an opportunity to challenge yourself that you should say ‘yes’, jump into it because I am positive you will grow wings before you land. I would say that the Food Network has made me a stronger chef and further inspired me to do better, try harder and reach for more. The last things is that I’m so honored that I got to meet the people that I did. If it wasn’t for the show I would have never met these amazing people.

JJ: Thank you so much for sharing with us Maeve, and again, congratulations on winning the Food Network Holiday Baking Championship.

MR: You are so welcome!

If you want to see the lip smacking menu go to www.sugarandscribe.com. I am personally looking forward to trying the Rochford Shepherd’s Pie and perhaps a little dessert taste with the Red Raspberry pie or the Tiramisu Cake with Kahlua Buttercream – decisions, decisions!

So for the holidays, make your way over to Sugar and Scribe Bakery, 7660 Fay Avenue in La Jolla to add some very special treats to the table. Maeve also gives a 10 percent discount our military, which makes the treats even sweeter.

I will meet you there and Happy Holidays!

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About the Author

Jeri Jacquin

Jeri Jacquin covers film, television, DVD/Bluray releases, celebrity interviews, festivals and all things entertainment.