Q&A with Halloween Baking Championship Judge Ron Ben-Israel
On the new show Halloween Baking Championship, expect to be blown away by some of the extremely creepy creations the bakers make, but even more than that, be ready for probably the scariest panel of judges you will ever see, and a host who's not afraid to deliver some deadly news to eliminated bakers. Judges Carla Hall, Ron Ben-Israel and Sherry Yard will be dishing out critiques, while Richard Blais will be sending home those bakers who don't meet the spooktacular criteria of the $25,000 competition show. Before you tune in for the premiere on Monday, October 5 at 9|8c, get to know each of them a little better.
Before finding the world of baking, Ron had a 15-year career as a modern dancer. After working pastry apprenticeships in Canada and France, he made his way to New York City, where he opened his couture cake shop. Ron has hosted Sweet Genius on Food Network and judged Cake Wars.
Ron Ben-Israel: Caramel apples. And I would love a sprinkling of coarse salt on top.
What do you usually give out to trick-or-treaters?
RBI: Pieces of cakes, of course; that’s what I do!
Do you have any funny Halloween stories you could share from your childhood?
RBI: Growing up in Israel we didn’t have Halloween, but there is a Jewish holiday that involves dressing up, called Purim. I loved being the king!
RBI: I once dressed up as a jellyfish — I put a lampshade over my head and tied many cut-up strips of translucent garbage bags. I was a hit!
When it comes to Halloween treats, desserts and sweets, do you lean toward cute or creepy? Why?
RBI: Creepy, of course. We can have cute all year around.
What's your favorite baking trick or tip in general?
RBI: I use a plastic bowl scraper to push the buttercream in an icing bag closer to the tip, and I seal the bag with a rubber band.
If you had to bake a cake to impress a Halloween character (like Frankenstein, Dracula, etc.), who would it be and why?
RBI: Oh, I’ll just make an engorged brain for Dr. Frankenstein. I’ll use raspberry filling that would ooze out of the cake when cutting it.
What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever had to bake (like a towering croquembouche, or a multi-tiered wedding cake)? How did you get through it?
RBI: I’m often scared about new projects, usually because they involve unusual structures or sizes. I just bake extra cake and eat it while working, to calm my nerves.
RBI: More is better when it comes to blood and gore. Save the delicate touch for Easter.
What criteria are you looking for in a well-executed Halloween dessert?
RBI: I’m looking for creative ways to cut the sweetness of candy and “frighten” me with intriguing flavor profiles.