ROAD TO THE TENT CHAPTER 1: The Tent that Never Happened
I have been teaching myself to bake for a very long time…12 years to be exact. It all started with one recipe handed down by family, my great grandmother Grace’s chocolate cake. From the moment I made that cake and started learning new recipes and techniques, my passion for baking and cooking and “want” to learn more took on a life of its own. Food was a way for me to express myself and show love to those around me. The more I baked, the better I got and it compounded to me having an entire cook book full of tried and tested recipes to turn to that have normal ingredients found in a home kitchen. I call this book my “baking bible” because that’s what it is. Its THAT valuable to me, took years to assemble, and its still growing. This book was a HUGE part of my road to the tent in itself so need to be shared at the front of this “book”. Eventually, my goal is to share it with everyone but for now I am thrilled to share with you my Road to the Tent and hope you enjoy how I ultimately became a finalist on The Great American Baking Show.
ROAD TO THE TENT CHAPTER 1: THE TENT THAT NEVER HAPPENED
On a random winter day in 2017 surfing the web (when I should have been folding a never ending pile of laundry) I saw an advertisement for The Great American Baking Show. OOOhh, I can do that, I thought! I knew I was good enough at that point and believed in myself enough to take a risk. So, I filled out a ton of paperwork, sent lots of photos and hit SEND. I felt a great sense of accomplishment just taking that risk and hitting the sent button. In the couple months that passed I really did not think too much about it. Life went on at the circus and although I kept sharing my recipes (and some horrible selfies) online, the application was a distant thought. I did not give it another thought really until cold muddy spring day when I received a random phone call. I immediately called my husband at work to tell him that I had just received a call from a producer from “that TV show” I applied to. “Oh my gosh , oh my gosh, oh my gosh! Owen!!!!!! A producer from The Great American Baking Show called me! They want to do a video interview with ME! I made it through the first round!! Whooo hooo!!!!” I was SO excited! This is it! I MADE IT! THIS. IS. IT!!
So the very next day….I straightened my hair (which I very rarely do), put on a ton of make up, put on a fancy shirt and plopped myself in front of my daughters iPad for my interview. I did not have one and well, had never done a skype before. My then 11 year old had to teach me. I was SO nervous during the interview but I made it through and ended the call saying “thank you”, let out a huge sigh and then immediately called everyone I knew! “I’m going almost picked to be on a TV SHOW!!” Two days later I received another call that I made it through to the next round, was to travel to New York City for a culinary interview and had ONE week to prepare two bakes of my choice and make a loaf of bread to present. Then, I called all my closest friends and family…AGAIN!
Scored to perfection
I immediately called my mom and asked her to come help with my very young circus while I baked, organized logistics and then traveled to the city. My husband organized a hotel stay for me, I ordered my Amtrak train ticket and then formulated a baking plan. I needed to create bakes that showcased my skills, flavors and design ability! I knew exactly what I wanted to make! Eclairs and Italian sponge petit-fours! These would be my winning bakes to get me on the show!
For the next week I was a complete BAKERZILLA, a mad scientist in the kitchen and a one track minded baker. I convinced myself that if I did not focus ALL my energy that I would not “make it.” But, I knew I had a shot so I put enormous pressure to make everything PERFECT! I was getting ON THAT SHOW!
After finalizing my recipes, I needed to figure out HOW to get my bakes to the city after a 2 hour car ride and then 3 hour train ride. Then, figure out how to keep my bakes fresh and cold overnight at my hotel room and THEN, get it to the tasting the next morning. This was a complete logistical nightmare by itself. I needed to get coolers to fit my bakes, but not so big I could not carry them on the train and containers to fit in the coolers. Ice packs to keep the food in the “cold safety zone” and carry ALL OF IT to the hotel WITH my luggage. I needed to figure out cab rides, bumps in the road, packaging and my brain felt like it was going to EXPLODE figuring it all out. But, for anyone who knows me knows that I am an “A” personality through and through and I thrived off the planning. I blame and thank my father for this trait. By the time I left had checklists, folders and notes.
The night before I was scheduled to leave I made my final bakes. I was thrilled with how they looked, tasted and had organized my traveling coolers with the patient and calm assistance of my mother. Me, I was a hot mess full of nerves that night but bursting with excitement at the possibilities. When I woke up the next morning it was POURING cats and dogs! Rain that is just SOAKING the earth….but, I had no time to think about it. From the moment I woke it was off to the races…shower, hair straightening, outfit, pack, shoes….travel bag, run around in circles like a maniac! Done, Done Done!
Cherry Jam Ingredients
Filling for my petit fours
I packed the car with luggage and then began to pack my coolers with bakes. Only this time my hair was not so straight and my clothes soaked through from the rain. Ugh, I had to travel in the rain!? HOW am I going to HOLD an umbrella when I park at the train station?!!! I don’t have a free hand… ”WE DID NOT CALCULATE FOR RAIN”!!! However, I needed to get in the car IMMEDIATELY or I “will MISS my train!!!!” I began to rush knowing I still needed to pack my bakes with the clock ticking. I packaged my bread in a box, and then my empty eclair shells in another…I tied both the boxes together in twine I found in the house. Tying the boxes together would allow me to carry both boxes and my umbrella in one hand. BRILLIANT!!!
My kids and mom were staying out of the way as I ran around mumbling to myself about one thing or another…I was running out of time and had five minutes to get out of the house and in the car. The very last thing I needed to do before leaving was place my petit fours very delicately into the container we found (after searching multiple stores I might add) to keep them secure and fresh…..in they went and then I placed the lid on and sealed them up.
“SOOOONNNN……OF……A…….MOTTHAAA…..BLEEEEEP…BLEEEEP BLEEEPP!!!! Bleepity Bleepity Bleepity! I had CRUSHED the buttercream designs on top of my dessert! My mother starred at me from across the room horrified as I cursed like a trucker who just got a flat tire in the middle of a freeway in August. I stared back ready to either throw the container across the room or cry. At that moment it could have gone either way. She slowly walked out of the room knowing my head was about to EXPLODE!!! To this day I wonder if she was laughing in the next room, I was THAT dramatic! Staring at my deformed and squashed desserts I quickly grabbed the “back ups” in the fridge that I did not think were “good enough” to present but having no choice I packed them up, only this time I fit them in a proper container and out the door I went in a flurry down the driveway.
Almond Sponge petit fours with ganache and cherry jam filling
“Italian Rainbow cookies…without the coloring
About ten miles down the road I realized I had not even said goodbye to my mother or kids. I called home and profusely apologized for my profanity and my nerves and thanked her for all her help. She is truly a saint. She gave me a great pep talk as she always does and we hung up. I sipped my coffee happily in the car. I was on schedule, drying out and everything was in the car. Success! I was on my way to to the tent. Over two hours later after driving through earth pouring rain…and slowly losing ground on my schedule I reached the train station...much later than expected ready to park. Anyone who has a cargo pod on an SUV knows that parking in the garage is NOT an option, the car is just too tall with a pod. But, I forgot and tried to enter the garage. I stopped just short of taking the pod off! What do I do? Now, there were cars coming up behind me also trying to get in the garage. Bleepity. Bleepity. Bleepity. There I go again, cursing at the steering wheel. So, I did a K turn and found an entrance into the outdoor overnight lot. “Lot ZZZ” was THAT far away! OMG, its pouring rain and I have to walk SOOOO FAAAAR to get from the overnight lot just to get in the station…THIS was not part of the plan! At this point my nerves were frayed but I needed to just keep going and get on that train.
I composed myself with nervous energy and began organizing my luggage under the semi dryness of the back hatch of my car. Backpack cooler, Check! Suitcase on wheels, Check! Cooler resting on top of luggage, check! Boxes and Umbrella in one hand, Check! Out I went across the parking lot, walking as fast as could with rain pouring down and sopping everything…the boxes, my bags, my cream color pants that completely impractical in muddy weather, my tan suede shoes, again completely inappropriate for the weather and now ruined, and my hair curling into a frizz mess by the second (what a wast of styling energy). Basically, I looked like a wet rat scurrying and carrying way too much stuff but “trying” to look like I had it all together! All of a sudden while walking….the twine holding my boxes together snapped! At that moment it was as if I was in slow motion that I watched my bakes TUMBLE onto the wet parking lot. NOOOOOOOO…I yelled grasping at the boxes. I stared down at the scattered and upside down boxes on the gravel and immediately then scrambled to pick up the boxes. I hobbled into the station carrying way too much stuff and sweating all while mumbling to myself, “Dont look…Dont look….DONT LOOK…just GET INTO THE TRAIN STATION! I am going to miss the TRAIN!!!!!!”
I blazed through the doors of the train station and to anyone who saw me I may have scared them a little with a “I’m a hot mess” face. I was THAT frazzled. I had only a few minutes before the train was set to board, I set everything down, took a deep breath and stared at the boxes, wet, crushed, and dirty. I opened up the bread first! Phew! It was perfect! Just a little bit of flour dusted off my gorgeous scoring on top. Next, I opened the eclair shells box. They were completely intact and minus a few garnishes that I could put back together - they were just as they were when I packed them. I could not believe it, they were perfectly fine! I plopped down in a chair and let out a huge sigh.
I boarded the train and propped my bakes up along side me and even thought I was still frazzles being on the train was a calming feeling. All I had to do was SIT and I would be in the city soon. So, I called my mom and husband to tell them both what happened, only now I was laughing hysterically, completely wet to the bones, and flabbergasted at what just happened. Realizing that my life is truly a traveling circus whether solo or with the full four ring act! After I hung up I pulled out my favorite cookbook The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard to study just like I usually do when traveling and settled in for a three hour train ride.
Once I arrived in the city I scurried out the train station and right into a cab. Aside from being exhausted, up to this point, this was the easiest part of the trip thus far. Into my hotel I went, ate a delicious steak dinner with a well deserved glass of red wine, and went to bed but, not before calling my husband and circus to say goodnight and tell them how much I loved them. I still could not believe I was in the city, about to interview for a TV show! I went to bed early knowing my interview was at 9:00am the next morning and I had SO much to do before then so I knew I needed to get up early.
The next morning I woke up on time, got ready with a pre-planned out timeline (of course) and jumped in a cab. I was on my way to my interview. I was SO excited and much more composed that the week before.
I arrived at the location of the interview and placed all my luggage in a corner. I was early...as usual. (note: This is a gift from my mother, she taught me to be early…ALWAYS.) I waited nervously in the lobby looking around at my competition. Just before 9:00am on the dot I walked up to the registration table to check in. I looked at the production staff sitting at the table with the biggest cheese smile I could muster and said, “I’m Andrea Maranville…i’m here for my interview.” I met and shook hands with a producer that I had been communicating with from LA and mentioned that I still needed to fill my eclairs and asked where could I do that…he turned to me with a very serious and stern face indicating that I needed to have everything done in advance of walking into the holding room…so he told me to go back out to the lobby and come back in when I was ready….OMG, i’m blowing it already, I remember thinking! Perfect Andrea, this is the first first impression your giving. UGH, first impressions are SO important, everyone knows that!!! Why did I not fill them in the hotel room?! So, I embarrassingly walked out and stood in the lobby frantically filling eclairs! This is still an image and moment that I laugh about to this day. How awkward that must have looked with a woman dressed up in a business outfit wearing stilettos, standing in a hotel lobby, piping eclairs. I packaged them back up, walked back in, and started over. As I was putting out my bakes I glanced over at others putting out theirs. Everyone had beautiful platters, decorative plates and presentation boards…that were stunning. All I could think of was…HOW did they travel will all that?! I gulped silently knowing that I was presenting my bakes on clear dollar store plates. All that planning and I did not focus one bit on presentation. Ugh! I placed my bakes on my dollar store plates stood back and smiled. I did it! I made it to the audition and my bakes were beautiful and by a hair they were in one piece and look amazing! All of a sudden, my food was gone - up to the judging room as I sat, waiting for my name to be called. I chatted casually with a couple others auditioning and thinking that their bakes were absolutely beautiful too!
“Andrea Maranville? Please come with me?” I was ushered down a hall and told to wait for my turn so I sat on a window sill ledge waiting for the person ahead of me to come out of interview room. As she came out of her interview a staff member told her to wait for a moment next to me as he entered the room to discuss with the culinary team. We both stood there in awkward silence but smiling and (I know) thinking the same things. As he returned from the room, he pulled her aside and quietly said. “Thank you so much for coming in today, this is as far as you will make it. Try again next time.” OMG! I sat there with my mouth open. I saw her bakes. They were beautiful…and she did not make it!? My mind started spinning. But, before I could even think much more, the door opened and I was ushered into “the room”. Once inside, I saw my bakes on my dollar store plates already tasted and dissected. Next, I saw two culinary producers staring back at me and asking me to sit down. I’ll leave the interview details for myself but, there were lots of questions, comments and I just loved talking with them. Once they had enough information we shook hands and I was ushered out the door. Now, it was my turn to exit the room and wait for the staff to go in and talk with the culinary team…ABOUT ME! I nervously sat next to the next person about to go in, just like before only the roles were reversed..still standing there in awkward silence. The staff member walked out, pulled me aside…this is it, i’m doomed, i’m going home I remember thinking! I walked away with him nervously and he quietly said, “Congratulations, your moving on to the next round in a half an hour with the production team upstairs!” What?!! That is awesome!! I’M THROUGH???!!! Whoo hooo!!!!
OH MY GAHHHHH!!! I can't believe that THIS girl just had an AUDITION in the "BIG 🍎" for a Baking TV Show...that shall remain nameless shhhh.. no asking which one...I wont tell! 😉
My Interview is DONE..PHEW......and I'm heading back to the circus! ❤️
Could you JUST IMAGINE!!! 🤞 Baha 😂😜❤️
I went back into the holding room, filled out more papers and waited…and waited…and waited. Next, my name was called, sent up an elevator and taken to a room where two producers placed me on a stool in front of a backdrop, camera lights blasting in my eyes, a microphone clicked to my shirt and a camera in my face. I had never seen anything like this in real life and was just so thrilled to be there. I felt like a movie star! I was so excited I did not even care that there was something wrong with the air circulation in the room and it was a stifling 100 degrees.
Now, it was time for my interview, Ready, Set, GO! I awkwardly answered questions flubbing my way the whole time but overall happy that I was even there. Before I knew it we were done and was sent on my way. I was told that someone would be in touch in a few weeks. I was encouraged to share my interview on social media (like I needed encouragement) but just not to share WHAT show I was interviewing for. OMG! They liked me! They want me to tell everyone!!! I made it! I am going to be on a TV show!!! So, the moment I left the interview and hopped in a cab, I snapped a selfie and posted it for everyone to see!
I returned to the train station smiling, with less luggage and sunglasses on. I sat in my seat and called my mom, husband, aunt, best friend and told them all about it. I talked the whole way home! I knew I made it! I was SOOO excited! By the time I got home I pretty much collapsed into bed from exhaustion! But not before laughing with my mom and husband about the entire traveling circus!
A few weeks went by and the kids school year was ending. I was beginning feel tired all the time and well, just not feeling the greatest. But, I just shrugged it off to being a “tired mom” and went on my merry way. I packed up the kids (as I do each summer since moving from the Lake 2 years prior) and we headed to Bolton Landing to invade my parents house for the summer. Each summer they go to camp and swim, I waitress at night to support the circus show. Only this summer was much different. This time I still had no clue if I made the TV show but fully believing in my core that I made it and would get a call at any moment. Then, as summer started I was still not feeling well, in fact, I was out right SICK by this point! But, not in a stomach or cold bug sort of way. Just an exhausted, achy, foggy, moody swollen gland way. Something was not right. So, finally after putting it off I went from doctor to doctor trying to figure out what exactly was going on. At one appointment I briefly mentioned that I was bitten by a tick a couple months back. The doctor immediately called in labs and sure enough, the results came back positive - I had lyme and was feeling the effects of it!! OMG! I cant be sick, i’m going to be on a show I thought! So, the next few weeks, I rested during the day, took lots of meds, waitressed at night, stayed out of the sun and well, was kind of blah! This was not what I had imagined for summer. I knew I was supposed to get a response in July but now July was nearing an end…and still no response, so I sent an email and received a response saying that in fact did NOT make the show. Ugh, bummer!! Not a fun email to get. And not what I wanted to share with people. After months of thinking I was getting to achieve a pretty awesome goal, I in fact had not. I was pretty upset. And I remember being embarrassed that I told everyone and now needed to suck up my pride and call myself a failure. The Tent. Did. Not. Happen. I remember sitting on my mom’s couch and snapping a picture to share that I did not make the show. I remember keeping my face down so the embarrassment in my eyes would not show. In the post I shared a quote "Failure is success in progress." - Albert EinsteinI not realizing at the time how TRUE it was. So, summer went on, and I began to feel better, life at the circus continued. But, looking back I don’t have much baking images or posts for a short while after that. I took a break from baking. I did not do it on purpose or even with some grand gesture, I just sort of stopped. I think I felt a bit defeated. But, we all know I cant help myself when it comes to cooking and baking so as time went and life went back to normal I began baking more and the Tent became a distant memory.
Looking back I now realize that EVERYTHING happens for a reason. I was supposed to fail that year. It did not happen because it wasn’t supposed to. Not that year anyway.
COMING NEXT: Chapter 2 - Road to the Tent: The 40 year old foodie
"Failure is success in progress." - Albert Einstein
Last February I started a journey to apply for a prime time network TV baking show. ❤️ Each month that passed and I moved closer and closer to it becoming a reality...I actually BELIEVED in my core I would succeed....that my baking skills are good enough. Today, I found out that I did not make the TV show.😢 Disappointed? Sure. But, will I give up sharing my passion for baking? No way!! The gift is in the journey and there is still lots of baking to be done! ❤️