He’s a winner!
Kevin VanDeraa, owner of Cupcake in Minneapolis, took top honors in Sunday night’s broadcast of the Food Network’s “Cupcake Champions,” beating out three other bakers. The prize: A cool $50,000.
VanDeraa (pictured, above, in a photo by Tom Okins) said that the day-long contest, which was videotaped at Food Network HQ in New York City and edited into an hour-long episode, was a touch-and-go experience.
“I was convinced that I was going home after round one,” he said. “I thought they were going to play up all of my mistakes in the edit. They didn’t capitalize on that drama, at least as much as I was expecting.”
VanDeraa was under contractual obligation not to reveal the outcome of the pre-recorded contest — the penalty was a stiff $500,000. He kept his mouth shut, but I have to admit that I wasn't fooled by those first-round stumbles. The news had to be good because, two days before the show aired, a local publicist made the media rounds on VanDeraa's behalf. You don't spend money on P.R. when you come in second.
VanDeraa first appeared on “Cupcake Wars” last summer, when he was awarded second prize for a Bollywood-themed episode. His first win was in April, when he interpreted a "Yo Gabba Gabba!" theme into the winner’s circle. That led to an appearance on the all-stars-style “Cupcake Champions” semi-finals in May, when he sailed to victory during a “Glee”-themed challenge.
Sunday’s contest required bakers to riff on Food Network personalities, so VanDeraa conjured up a honey almond cake, filling it with pears poached in grape juice and topping it with a butterscotch-bourbon buttercream icing, an homage to “Iron Chef America” talking head Alton Brown. Another was a s’mores cupcake saluting grillmaster Bobby Flay. All the cupcakes featured on Sunday’s episode are available at the Prospect Park restaurant/cafe.
“If we can keep them in stock,” VanDeraa said with a laugh. “We’ve already run out several times today.”
Minnesota’s newly minted TV reality star and his prize-winning baked goods will also make an appearance in the rotunda at the Mall of America on Saturday, meeting-and-greeting and selling all the cupcakes featured on the championship episode. Why the megamall? VanDeraa is in talks with mall management about opening a branch of Cupcake.
As for the winnings, he has plenty of ideas.
“When you own a small business, any chunk of change gets gobbled up,” he said. “We’re expanding onto Grand Avenue, so this will be a big help with that.”