Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 3/22/17
When Anthony Damiano, a lifelong Rahway resident and full-time bartender, tuned in to watch “Cake Boss” on television through the years, he never expected that the cake sculpting and baking skills that he learned through the show would one day bring him straight to the Boss himself.
“A few years ago, I made a cake for a friend who was expecting a baby after I had learned some things from Cake Boss and she asked me where I bought the cake from,” Damiano said. “At that moment, I knew that this was an area I could excel in.”
After years of creating edible art centerpieces shaped like the Eiffel Tower, bouquets, Christmas mantles, Thanksgiving turkeys and more as gifts for friends and family and for fun, Damiano came across a posting on Facebook for a casting call for a new show called “Bakers vs Fakers” on the Food Network. He applied and sent in some photos of his creations, and soon went through more rounds of interviews and even a baking competition before being cast.
The show features host Buddy Valastro, famous face of Cake Boss, as he and his team of judges try to guess out of three home bakers and one professional baker who’s the ‘baker’ and who’s the ‘faker’ after two rounds of baking; all utilize a secret ingredient that all bakers must use in their creations. If the professional baker comes out on top, they receive $10,000, but if a “faker” wins the blind taste test, then they walk away with $15,000 — as Damiano did when he won his episode which aired Feb. 8.
“It’s difficult to guess who’s the baker and who’s the faker when watching this show,” Damiano said. “Some of the professionals have their own techniques that make them look like an amateur, and some of the amateurs are really organized and professional.”
During the first round of Damiano’s episode, which eliminated one of the four contestants, Damiano created a deconstructed chocolate chip cannoli made with a chocolate stout, which was the secret ingredient of the round. In the second round, which deemed Damiano the winner of the episode, he created a lemon rosemary soufflé with a graham cracker raspberry truffle, using fresh herbs as the secret ingredient.
“I was so surprised that I won,” said Damiano, who put his hands to his face and dropped to the floor before jumping up in excitement when he discovered that he was the winner. “One of my competitors made a dessert I couldn’t even pronounce and the other made a homemade smoker to smoke their ingredients. I had thought to myself, ‘I’m such an amateur.’”
Damiano may not be a professional baker, but the judges sure didn’t know that — one of them said that Damiano’s soufflé was the best he ever had. Besides the taste of his creations, Damiano said that he thinks the presentation of his desserts also helped him to win.
“I’m all about the details of things, even when it comes to decorating my house for Christmas,” Damiano said. “I have a really good eye, and I know that my presentation was the best of any of theirs.”
When it was announced that Damiano was the winner of Bakers vs. Fakers episode, he had the chance to speak to his “mentor,” Valastro. “I told him, on camera, that the reason I’m here is because of you,” said Damiano. “He looked me right in the eye and said, ‘That means so much to me.’”
Growing up, Damiano said that he always clung to his aunt Yvonne, who was the baker of the family and is known for her Italian cookies and sticky buns.
“I would rather watch her make the cookie dough then make lasagna any day,” he said.
Now that Damiano has an extra $15,000, he said that he is looking for a town house to buy and is also interested in pursuing baking part-time until he can see if he can make it into a full-time endeavor.
“I don’t define myself as a cookie cutter baker — I like to think outside the box,” said Damiano. “I want to make something you’re never going to see again and you’re going to say, ‘Wow, this came from you?’”
To watch Anthony Damiano’s episode online or to find out when you can catch it on live TV, click here.