With popcorn-topped meringue pavlovas, mascarpone blueberry tartlettes and a peanut butter mousse-filled cake roll, Itasca's Brian Emmett proved Wednesday night he's America's best amateur baker.
Emmett, a self-employed advertising executive and husband and father of two, won $250,000 and a contract to publish his own cookbook after winning "The American Baking Competition," CBS's elmination-style reality show.
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The finale pitted Emmett and two other bakers, one of them Mount Prospect native Darlene Pawlukowsky, a project manager now living in Johns Creek, Ga. The third baker was Francine Bryson, a homemaker from Pickens, S.C.
"I think coming in here I was pretty cocky, but once we got into it (I realized) this is really difficult," Emmett said.
Emmett, who watched the taped finale at home with family and friends, said the show has taught him humility.
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.
Coming off his victory last week as Star Baker -- the title judges Paul Hollywood and Marcela Vallodolid bestow on the week's top performer -- Emmett gave a strong showing on his peanut bake, yet his Boston cream doughnuts failed to rise enough and his glaze looked pasty. The doughnut round went to Pawlukowsky.
On crutches during the entire competition after an injury sustained on set, Emmett confidently bounced back and put together a trio of mini desserts in the final showstopper round designed to highlight what the bakers had learned over the course of the competition. The contestants had five hours to create 72 mini desserts; 24 pieces of three styles of treats that represented the American flag. Hollywood and Vallodolid praised his "beautiful" Pavlova and the cream-filled cakes.
Pawlukowsky's meringue filled with exploding candy might have been too much for Hollywood, who deemed the blue bites "so sweet they're salty."
Pawlukoswky celebrated the end of the show Wednesday night with a party hosted by John's Creek officials.