A North Shore baking instructor took his skills to Food Network. And won.
Douglas Phillips, North Shore Community College’s baking and pastry instructor, took home the “Holiday Baking Championship” title this week after the special aired on televisions across the country on Dec. 17. The winning challenge was to create a cake that looked like a holiday gift on the outside with a surprise inside to be revealed once it was sliced.
The 28-year-old’s orange cake with mascarpone cream and orange buttercream won over the judges.
“This show has been quite the ride,” said Phillips. “This started after I got a call that Food Network was looking for me and I almost didn’t call back because it wasn’t really my thing.”
As champion, Phillips gets $25,000, a video feature on FoodNetwork.com, and a feature in Food Network Magazine. The Ohio native said this was not the first time the network showed interest in having him on one of their baking shows.
“They called me before to be on their ‘Spring Baking Championship’ and I wasn’t into it,” he said. “This time around I was teaching and my wife told me to go for it, so I called back and I guess they liked me. It all snowballed from there.”
Phillips competed against nine contestants to land a spot in the top three for the seventh, and final, episode. He said the inspiration behind the shape of his cake was his love of “little wine tubes.”
“I knew the other contestants would do squares and I wanted to do something different,” he said. “I also didn’t want to cover my cake with fondant (a sugar paste) because that was a specialty of one of the judges and I knew he would see every single flaw. I covered mine in a chocolate collar.”
The Ayer resident said he’s always had a fondness for baking during the holidays. When he was a kid, he, his mother, and his grandmother would bake up a storm on Christmas Eve, he said. His interests in the kitchen continued as he got a job in high school as a cook and soon after at a pastry shop.
After high school, Phillips graduated from the Culinary Institute of America for baking and pastry. He worked at various fine-dining restaurants in Manhattan before settling in Concord and scoring a job at Woods Hill Table in 2016, he said.
With the sudden death of his father that year, Phillips said he no longer wanted to work in the restaurant industry and wanted to try his hand at teaching. In January 2017, he began his career with NSCC. He said he enjoys the hands-on learning field and loves the “aha” moment when his students finally get it.
“I like the creativity and artistry behind it and I really love the science,” he said. “With baking, it’s precision and science and it all culminates into a finished product that started out as nothing.”