Eva Roberts is getting her 15 minutes in the spotlight.
The owner of Spokane’s Just American Desserts has been featured this fall in the Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship.
“I am making a pumpkin spice toaster pastry with a dipping sauce that’s going to be spice pumpkin latte. My dipping sauce is white chocolate, cream and coffee and pumpkin spice for the filling," she said in an excerpt from an episode from the series.
“I got this random call out of the blue from casting for Food Network and at first, to be honest with you, I thought it was a scam. I thought, oh yes, you too can be on Food Network. Just give me your Visa card number. But I did not actively pursue it," Roberts said. "I know of the show, being in the food industry. We all watch the Food Network and I watch the Holiday Baking Championship, but I don’t know how they found me.”
But they did find her and she flew to Los Angeles last summer, taping a television series that wouldn’t air for a few months. Every day, she and her compatriots walked onto the set, ready to be greeted by show host Jesse Palmer.
“Jesse comes out and they have these elaborate sets. You’re looking at that set, thinking, I see nutcrackers, that means there’s going to be nuts in some way, so your brain is going. And then they give you the challenge and that’s it, you go," she said.
One episode paired the bakers in a one-on-one competition. An Atlanta bakery owner named Jamaal had won the previous heat, so he was allowed to pick his opponent in a challenge to spice up a Friendsgiving potluck dish.
“Let’s start with you first. Who do you want your partner to be?” Palmer asked.
Right away, Jamaal said, “Eva. She hasn’t won a challenge yet. I think that might work to my advantage and, yeah, I want to win this main heat.”
“He probably just thinks that I would be the weak link," Roberts answered. "Bring it on.”
Their featured ingredient was creamed corn.
“So Eva, what did you decide to make?” Palmer asked before she presented her dish to the judges.
“During the holidays you’re eating such heavy food. I decided what better than a cream puff. It’s lighter and I thought the cherries would give a little color," she said, introducing her dish.
“It’s beautiful and it looks so light and airy," said judge Carla Hall.
“Yeah, we need to taste this," said Hall's colleague, Nancy Fuller.
Roberts won not only the one-on-one against Jamaal, but “One baker was the toast of the entire party," said Palmer and, after a short pause, " That baker is Eva.”
Her fellow competitors cheered and Roberts thanked them.
“You broke through," Palmer said.
“I felt vindicated. I felt good," Roberts said in an interview later.
Ultimately, she went all the way to the final episode. The final four. Two hours. She was the first eliminated that day and finished fourth overall.
Roberts spent more than three weeks in L.A., quarantined some of the time, because of Covid, with her compatriots.
“You know, a lot of the other contestants, some were, because of Covid, unemployed. So it wasn’t a big deal for them to be down there, but my shop was still up and running and I’m very fortunate to have some great people that have worked with me for more than 30 years, that can hold down the fort," she said.
Has this meant a bounce to your business with the national exposure?
“Oh, absolutely it has. I’ve had people come in just to see me and say they loved the show. I’ve got note cards and emails. It’s just been wonderful," she said.
“Winning money is great, but I’m really not doing it for the money," she said on the show, looking into the camera. "I’m doing it, hopefully, to do my city proud. Spokane has been very good to me and my business. Very supportive. Very loyal."
How is it to watch yourself months later on TV?
“I just looked and I thought, ‘Man, you look really fat. You need to lose some weight.," she said with a laugh. "You have this vision of yourself and I’m thinking, ‘Boy, I really do look old and heavy.’ But that’s all right. I’m the grandma and I’m proud of it and you never trust a skinny baker, right?”
In her last competition on the final episode, Palmer announced she had lost a one-on-one bake-off that would have put her in the final trio. “Unfortunately, Eva, that means that you’ll be leaving us. Keep rocking that headband.”
“I will. It’s my style," she said as she left the set.