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Article updated: 7/4/2013 4:25 PM

Suburbanites rise to the finals on CBS baking show

By Deborah Pankey

When it comes to pastry, Darlene Pawlukowsky and Brian Emmett speak French.

The two suburban bakers turned out exemplary tarte Tatins, napoleons and puff pastry towers during Wednesday night's airing of CBS's "The American Baking Competition" and secured their places in the show's final round.

Pawlukowsky, a Mount Prospect native and Prospect High School graduate, and Emmett, a Glenbard East High School grad now living in Itasca, are two of the three bakers remaining in the heated elmination-style reality show. The show will crown American's best amateur baker on July 10.

Wednesday night's episode on French pastries allowed both bakers to shine; Emmett, an advertising executive earned his first Star Baker (the title judges Paul Hollywood and Marcela Vallodolid bestow on the week's top performer) for his savory onion tart and flaky layered napoleon.

"I went into this feeling like I was a great baker, and the judges have really humbled me," Emmett said after Wednesday's show aired. "I'm learning; I've improved each week."

Coming off two weeks as Star Baker herself Pawlukowsky, who now lives in Georgia, hosted a viewing party Wednesday at Emerson's Ale House in her hometown. The crowd of family and friends, many from her grade school days, whooped, hollered and cheered during the show as if they were watching the Blackhawks in overtime.

"This has been so surreal, so crazy," Pawlukowsky said trying to talk above the crowd. "I followed my heart, and I did my best. I wanted to do something my children could be proud of."

The competition started with 10 bakers from across the country and put them through a series of weekly challenges that included croissants, custard and showstopping cakes. The top baker wins a $250,000 grand prize and has the opportunity to publish a cookbook with Simon & Schuster.

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