Seven years ago, Brother Andrew Corriente, O.F.M. Cap., was meditating in a chapel and thought “Why don't you cook something?”
“Then I went into the kitchen, and I haven't left since then,” he said.
That inspiration led him to apply to be a contestant on the fifth season of “The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition.” He was declared the winner last week.
Brother Andrew is a friar from nearby Capuchin College and a third year graduate student majoring in theology at Catholic University.
“I'm a huge fan of ‘The Great British Bake Off.’ I think the driving motivation to apply was to learn from professionals and to meet Paul Hollywood,” he said.
This drive explains why Brother Andrew was so excited when he finally earned a coveted “Hollywood Handshake” from the celebrity chef late in the show.
Being on a cooking competition show has its challenges but Brother Andrew was able to get through it all with the power of prayer.
“The biggest challenge I had was doubt. I was surrounded by extremely talented bakers. Their breadth of knowledge is staggering,” he said. “It made me question whether I know how to macronage correctly, or if I had the proper ratio of flour to water for a loaf. What helped me through it was definitely prayer. I was going through so much doubt that I needed to express it and give it to God.”
The final baking challenge was to create three different kinds of individual-sized mini desserts fit for a New Years Eve party. Brother Andrew titled his final creation “Baking My Way Through Life.” His desserts included chocolate sandwich cookies filled with lime butter cream and blackberry jam, a berry and cream cake filled with white chocolate frosting, and a rosemary-apple pie topped with salted caramel.
Brother Andrew won the competition by learning from each challenge, trusting his instincts, and never giving up.
“I'm still wrapping my head around the show, so I really don't know what I'm feeling after winning! The whole show was drastically different from my day-to-day life and it still seems very much like a dream,” he said.
“The Great American Baking Show” is based off the popular British version, “The Great British Baking Show.” The judges on season 5 were Emma Bunton, Spice Girl singer; Anthony ‘Spice’ Adam, former Chicago Bears defensive tackle player; Sherry Yard, pastry chef; and Hollywood. Brother Andrew competed against nine other contestants in various baking challenges.
The episodes were filmed in London under the same tent used in the British version. “The show was tremendously stressful,” explained Corriente. “We were away from our loved ones, working long days in a new kitchen, and asked to do impossible tasks, like making 24 madeleines in one hour and 45 minutes. (Madeleine batter normally needs to rest overnight.)”
Brother Andrew’s hard work paid off and now he can go back and show people what he can do. “After being on the show I'm smarter, faster, and more intentional in the kitchen now,” he said. “I want to build up my repertoire of base recipes and refine my technique. I want to cook the best of the best for my brothers and loved ones.”
Watch “The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition” on ABC.