SALT LAKE CITY — Competing on a Food Network baking show was intimidating for Bryan Clark, a home baker from Salt Lake City who had never entered a baking competition before.
It didn’t help when he found out Martha Stewart would be the show’s mentor.
“I kept downplaying the whole experience in my mind just to make myself feel more comfortable about doing it,” Clark recently told the Deseret News. “But seeing Martha was the most intimidating, fun surprise ever.”
“Bakeaway Camp with Martha Stewart,” a new show premiering Monday at 10 p.m. MDT on Food Network, puts six home bakers to the test in an outdoor baking boot camp with camp-inspired games and challenges. The winner gets a kitchen filled with appliances worth $25,000.
The series stars Jesse Palmer as the host, and Carla Hall and Dan Langan as judges, in addition to Stewart as the mentor.
“Martha’s always been an icon in my book, and to meet anyone in the cooking world, let alone Martha Stewart, truly it was the biggest honor of my life to be able to be around her,” Clark said.
Clark, a full-time IT consultant who bakes for family and friends on the side, said he grew up watching Stewart’s TV shows and was surrounded by her magazines, to which his mom subscribed.
“She was truly the most kind and generous person that I’ve ever met,” Clark said. “It was just really amazing to be around someone like that who’s not only amazing at what they do but who’s also really kind. She even made me an espresso when I was there in her kitchen, which was one of the coolest things. But I am a Martha fan for life.”
Clark’s baking inspiration began while he was a growing up, watching his mom and older sister bake.
“I really just wanted to help out because I thought it was amazing the things they would make, and I wanted to be a part of that,” Clark said.
Clark remembers starting to make recipes from his mom’s Taste of Home cookbooks when he was about 8 or 9. He was especially well known for his Oreo cakes.
“It grew into a love for loving people eating what I made and having them enjoy it, and more from watching the Food Network growing up,” Clark said.
Now Clark has his own baking Instagram account, @sweetbitesbybryan, and enjoys baking cakes, cookies and other desserts on request.
The baker said he had applied to compete on Food Network’s “Holiday Baking Championship” almost two years ago. After some interviewing, the network decided to go with other candidates, but kept Clark’s file on hand and reached out last year about “Bakeaway Camp with Martha Stewart.”
“I was definitely intrigued, given that it was home bakers, so I wasn’t competing against professional bakers by any means,” Clark said. “And also learning to hone my skills, being able to do a variety of desserts and not necessarily sticking to cookies or something like that, definitely intrigued me as well.”
Clark said he prepared for the show by putting together a list of all of the desserts he was good at making, and some of the things he wanted to improve. Flavors and textures are his specialty, but decorating wasn’t. Months before the show started, he would practice baking goodies in the show’s time limit.
“The best thing I think I did for myself was just trying to plan for potential pitfalls, like what could they throw at me and how would I handle this, whether it was an ingredient or a change in the time or something like that,” Clark added.
The baker said he is also an Eagle Scout — “Thanks, Mom.”
Clark said his goals on the show were to have fun and learn how to better his baking skills.
“It really was the coolest experience of my life — meeting the contestants, the secrets they gave, all of the tips,” Clark said. “I think the show’s going to be really fun just because there was so much good, practical information that was given.
“I don’t personally know any other baking show where you’re up against so many different elements,” Clark added. “We were outside, not just in a tent like in ‘The Great British Bake Off.’ But it was like you’re exposed to all of the elements, so we had bees coming into the food, we had rain, we had the hot, the cold, so many different factors that play a huge role into what you’re making.”
“Bakeaway Camp with Martha Stewart” has helped Clark feel more confident in who he is as a baker, and what he can offer others.
“Baking is love,” Clark said, “and I like being able to do that.”