St. Rose 7th-grader competing in Food Network contest

Anthony Fontanez demonstrated his baking skills during a recent science project in St. Rose Grammar School, Belmar, when he chose to bake a cake for a project on the solar system. Courtesy photo

FROM THE MONITOR

By Lois Rogers, Correspondent

It’s a safe bet everyone from Belmar’s St. Rose Parish and two school communities will be tuned in for the Food Network’s Kids Baking Championship this season.

After all, all eyes were glued to the channel Jan. 6 when Anthony Fontanez, a student from St. Rose Grammar School made the first round cut on this year’s premiere episode of the popular series.

And when the seventh-grader got to school the next day, the excited kids swarmed him. “Everyone was talking, asking questions,” ranging from was it fun to what was it like meeting the celebrity chef judges – Duff Goldman and Valerie Bertinelli – the young chef reported. “They are very supportive.”

His fellow students were well aware that appearing on the popular series had been a dream of Anthony’s for three years. He’d auditioned two years in a row along with tens of thousands of kids from around the nation before being tapped as one of 12 contestants in this year’s 10-week competition.

For a month this past summer, Anthony, accompanied by his dad, Jerry Fontanez, joined the other 11 contenders in Los Angeles to film the eighth season of the 10-week competition.

Each of the 10 episodes has a theme. In the premiere episode, the mission was to create a cake from scratch that was frosted in a “shag” texture resembling the carpets of the 70s.

The young bakers, who ranged in age from 10 to 13, had to work against the clock, creating their cakes from start to finish in fast-moving sequences. Anthony’s was a vanilla cake with cherries and strawberry butter cream frosting, which admirably met the “shag” look requirement.

Everyone in St. Rose School was thrilled when Anthony made the cut, said principal Gregory J. Guito, and St. Rose pastor, Msgr. Edward Arnister.

A couple of days later, Guito reflected on the seventh-grader’s organizational skills; Anthony met all the deadlines on time.

“We all watched it – it was great watching him,” Guito said. “He made the entire St. Rose community proud. You could tell Anthony was very well-organized and methodical. He provided feedback and was invited to come back for the next episode.”

Msgr. Arnister said he was impressed at Anthony’s skills. “Anthony’s strawberry cream cake on the Food Network made me hope that maybe he will bake for us sometime.”

Reflecting on the experience, but unable to divulge the results of the competition, Anthony said he enjoyed his time on Kids Baking Championship very much, especially meeting the other young bakers, the production team and learning new organizational skills.

“I love baking and I try to bake every day,” said Anthony, whose long-term goal is to study culinary arts in France with the focus on baking. His hope for the future is to have a bakery. “A big bakery,” he said.

The young baker’s mother, Michelle, said she was “extremely proud of his persistence,” pursuing his goal to appear on the show despite the challenges.

“He applied to the show on his own and he kept at it. He bakes every day. This is what he wants to do.” She recalled that four years ago, when he started watching the show, he “thought he could do that. He creates his own recipes. He uses ingredients you could never think of.”

Anthony, who is a junior lifeguard in the summer, said that he likes to help out in the kitchen at home, make side dishes and sometimes even main courses for dinner. Whipping up cookies and deserts for his brother, Vincent, 15 and sister, Gianna, 17, both St. Rose High School students, are also something he enjoys.

“It’s a great thing, his mother said. “It keeps him busy.”

The series continues with nine more elimination rounds on succeeding Monday nights and concludes with the awarding of a $25,000 grand prize and a feature story on the winner in the Food Network Magazine.

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