Maui Chef Competes on Food Network Baking Show
Originally from Florence, Italy, Riccardo Menicucci admits he likes to be in the spotlight, or “under the lights,” as he describes it.
So the pastry chef was in his element as a contestant on Spring Baking Championship, Food Network’s hit primetime culinary competition. Hosted by lifestyle expert Clinton Kelly, the show tests the resolve of 10 talented bakers to create extraordinary baked treats that must impress returning judges Nancy Fuller, Duff Goldman and Lorraine Pascale.
Menicucci, who recently joined the team at Four Seasons Resort Maui, was working as a pastry chef at high-end restaurants in San Francisco when his Instagram profile caught the eye of Food Network show producers. Hear more of his story in our video above.
“It was definitely fun to be part of it,” he recalls. “Clinton Kelly’s awesome, I was joking a lot with him, we were joking a lot with the judges, I like to have fun; it’s part of my personality!”
Bakers compete to earn the coveted title of Spring Baking Champion and walk away with a $25,000 grand prize. But to rise to the top, the bakers must survive two demanding rounds of spring-themed challenges in each episode that push their baking skills to the limit, with the judges determining which competitors go home and who will be victorious. Despite all that pressure, Menicucci says the 10 contestants became lasting friends.
“We are all in touch, we have a group text message,” he explains. “We were hanging out every night, going out for dinner, eating together; it was a really good group!”
The show runs for eight weeks, starting Monday, March 18 at 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time. In addition to airing at 9 p.m. in Hawai‘i, Spectrum cable guides show Spring Baking Championship will also be on Food Network at 6 p.m. here.
In the season premiere, the bakers are tasked to celebrate the beginning of Spring by combining all things cute and delicious in a pre-heat challenge creating Spring animal-themed donuts. In the main heat, the bakers must get in touch with their inner artists as they design watercolor cakes featuring iconic Spring fruits and vegetables, but only nine bakers will continue in the competition.
“Every critique helps you, no matter who it’s coming from; it helps you see a different point of view you may not notice, so I welcome every critique,” says Menicucci. “It’s good because you have to listen, take note, think about it, process it and see what you can do.”
Other episodes include baking up blue ribbon-worthy rhubarb pies, crafting an “ooey gooey” marshmallow dessert in honor of Easter, and the first Spring Baking Championship Spelling Bee – where the bakers must make colorful cream tart words that evoke all things Spring.
Three days after the filming wrapped up, Menicucci received a call from Four Seasons Resort Maui about what could be described as his dream job. Just 90 days later, he had moved to Maui to live that dream as assistant executive pastry chef.
“I couldn’t believe that I got the job, it was like everything was too beautiful to be real,” he smiles. “I get the chance to work for pretty much the best hotel company on the planet; I was like, ‘It sounds too good! I don’t know if I’m going to wake up this is all a big dream,’ but it’s not. I’m really lucky; I’m very happy!”
Last year, the Spring Baking Championship series netted its highest-rated season so far, seen by nearly 7.5 million viewers. Learn more about the show on Food Network’s website.