Mystic bake shop owner competes on Food Network show

Sift Bake Shop owner Adam Young got the thrill of a lifetime last summer when he competed on the Food Network's Spring Baking Championships, a seven-episode series that will be televised starting 9 p.m. Sunday.

Young said in an interview at his Water Street shop that he can't reveal how he did against eight other contestants, ranging from top amateurs to professionals. That way, the winner of the $50,000 prize in the baking cookoff will be a surprise.

The Food Network flew him out to Los Angeles for the taping, which lasted about two weeks and involved grueling hours from 6 a.m. to as late as 11 p.m., he said.

"I got to meet the cast and crew — it was really cool," said Young, former executive pastry chef at the Ocean House in Watch Hill. "I got to meet people with different backgrounds. You get to see all their different influences."

Young said the hardest part of the competition was getting things done in the time allotted. For instance, he had to create a wedding cake in three hours, when it would normally take more than twice that amount of time, he said.

Another difficulty, he said, was July's hot and humid weather in Los Angeles, which made him rethink some of his baking ingredients that might not sustain their shape or flavor in the heat. He noted that presentation points awarded by the judges were equal to the taste and flavor evaluation in determining each episode's winner.

"I enjoyed myself immensely," Young said. "It was a tremendous amount of fun."

Young said the competition occurred only a few months after he opened his downtown French bakery, which happened to coincide almost exactly with the birth of his first child. He had previously been asked several times to compete on the Food Network show but had to turn it down each time, so he figured this was his last chance to test his skills against other top chefs across the country.

"I just didn't want to be kicked off on day one," he laughed. "No one wants to be embarrassed on TV."

Young said he was impressed with the effort and money that go into the Food Network production. He said filming was done on a set off Hollywood Boulevard and involved dozens of camera operators during the baking competition, not to mention hours of interviews afterwards as producers asked chefs to deconstruct the thought process behind their concoctions so the explanations could be used as voiceovers during the show.

"You're working in a new kitchen," he said. "You don't know where everything is. But at the end of the day, it's a huge opportunity."

Early on, Young said, he had a chance to discover some of the likes and dislikes of the various judges and made sure to try to cater to their preferences. The episodes have themes related to spring special occasions, such as Easter and Mother's Day.

Every recipe had to be concocted from memory, Young said. No cheat sheets were allowed. And nothing is staged, he said, from the sweat pouring off his brow to the reaction of the chefs.

Young said he had a chance to talk to previous contestants to ask them how he should promote his appearance on the Spring Baking Championships.

"Everyone said it's impacted business in a positive way, whether they won or not," Young said.

Not that Young needs much help. An award-winning chef, Young opened Sift last spring to almost immediate success. In fact, he said it wasn't until October that his daily customer count fell below 1,000.

His initial staff of 15 quickly rose to 35, he said, and he has signed on new commercial customers including S&P Oyster House, Spicer Mansion and MBar.

Young tries to constantly change up the menu at Sift, offering customers different kinds of experiences and an "experimental vibe." He is planning in the warm weather, for instance, to add about 50 seats for outside dining.

"I don't think anyone is coming here out of necessity," Young said. "When you walk in here, we're trying to provide an experience."

l.howard@theday.com

Croissants at Sift Bake Shop in Mystic. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Croissants at Sift Bake Shop in Mystic. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

To watch

WHAT: Spring Baking Championship

WHERE: Food Network

WHEN: 9 p.m. Sundays

HOST: Jesse Palmer

More information: FoodNetwork.com/SpringBakingChampionship

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