Molly Winsten imagines herself on TV, fighting for culinary dominance like the celebrity chefs on the Food Network. The 24-year-old Boston University graduate student took a big step toward her goal when she recently competed in the network’s “Bakers vs. Fakers” program.
Winsten is in her second year of a Master’s program in Nutrition and Dietetics. She expects to finish the program sometime next year. Her undergraduate degree is from Stetson University in Deland, Florida where she studied Integrative Health Services with a concentration in Food Science. She has resided in Marblehead with her cousins since beginning the graduate program. Winsten has deep roots on the North Shore, her mother having grown up in Swampscott.
It was her love of cooking that prompted Winsten to audition for food shows. Before appearing on the Food Network, she had auditioned for Master Chef on Fox, saying that “I came close to getting on that show.”
The process for the Food Network audition included Skyping videos of herself cooking. After a vigorous selection process, Winsten was invited onto the show. “I had a sense of accomplishment, excited in that I wanted to show what I can do, and what I can do especially at my age.” She was the youngest of the four contestants on the show.
Winsten credits her dad for her interest in food, helping him prepare family dinners from the age of two. Originally from Florida, Molly is the oldest of three siblings, and she always wanted to help make Jewish holiday meals with the extended family.
“Growing up, we lived in a couple of small Jewish communities, so we held large Hanukkah parties with tons of latkes and even brisket,” she explained In addition to the hundreds of latkes, there was her Grandma’s kugel, and Winsten said the flavor combinations were wonderful.
Her awareness of the subtle nuances of flavor influenced her decision to study food science, but it also led Winsten into a business of food preparation for families with children who have allergies. She explained that she wants to create gluten free and other healthy recipes that tastes as delicious as that food she remembers from her own childhood.
Dr. Paula Quatromoni, chair of the department and one of her professors said, “I was very supportive of Molly’s appearance on the Food Network. I know this is a real passion of hers and she is extremely creative, talented, and knowledgeable about baking, ingredients and foods.” She added that when Molly asked for permission to miss the last class of the fall semester so she could compete on the Food Network that she had no reservations in agreeing.
The premise of the TV show is to have two professional bakers and two non-professional “fakers” compete in two rounds. The winner of the second round is awarded $10,000 if they are a professional and $15,000 if they are not. The two pastry chef judges, as well as the host, are unaware who are the bakers and who are the fakers.
Molly won the first round, but lost the second round where she competed against the two professional bakers.
She explained that the competition was set up where each baker had to include a secret ingredient in each of the recipes.
The first round was potato chips, and she made an apple fritter with cheddar chips and thyme with a crunchy topping. She said her brother’s love of apple fritters influenced her decision.
For the second round, she had to include yogurt and made a lemon filled macaroon with a blueberry yogurt butter cream frosting. The winner, a proprietor of a cookie shop, made a banana split cupcake.
When it was revealed she was a “faker,” the judges, she said, were shocked.
“I thought I had it in the bag, and I am still a little bitter,” but Winsten explained she has moved on and will continue to audition for other shows. “It was a great experience, and the fact the judges thought I was a pastry chef was a huge compliment.”