Itasca baking champ sails into summer with new cookbook
When Brian Emmett opened a box of freshly printed cookbooks the other day in his Itasca kitchen, he wasn't just unpacking a box full of his debut cookbook.
"This is a legacy for my kids," says Emmett of his daughters Shayla, 15, and Julia, 11. "Julia, my little baker, she has the book and she's already baking from it."
"Get Your Bake On" goes on sale May 26. Filled with more than 75 recipes as well as heartwarming stories and useful tips, the book has been more than two years in the making.
Emmett won the opportunity to publish a cookbook in 2013 when he won "The American Baking Competition," a CBS elimination-style baking show. The prize package included the book contract and $250,000.
And it was an opportunity he almost didn't take.
He had applied for numerous competitive cooking television shows without any luck. He was on the fence about heading to "The American Baking Competition" audition when his wife, Lisa, basically slapped him upside the head and told him to march in to the kitchen and make his caramel apple cheesecake.
The rest of the story unfolded before millions of television viewers where Emmett became known for what he calls his "spicy personality" (others might say cocky).
"I wasn't that bad," he says, slyly adding that Southern-bred Francine (one of the final three) was the bully on the set. "You don't see half of what's going on," he said about the clips that end up on the cutting room floor. "They picked scenes to enhance the story."
After the show ended and he should have been floating on cloud nine, Emmett admits he slipped into a funk.
"I was in a fog. I laid on the couch for weeks watching crime shows. I grew a beard," he says. "(The competition) was so much stress, and I just don't get stressed out ... I'm the most positive person, but it was like I had post-traumatic stress disorder."
The reality of fulfilling his dream to write a cookbook helped snap him back and he starting pulling together recipes -- a mix of items from the show as well as family favorites. In 2014 he submitted 115 or so recipes that were whittled down to those that appear in the book's 200-plus pages.
"I'd sit in the kitchen and the table would be full of recipes and ingredients," he says. "My daughters, my wife, Mike (his business partner) would stay out of my way."
A change in editors along the way prolonged the process, but Emmett says he's thrilled with the book. He said he most enjoyed heading to New York for the photo shoot. Twenty of his recipes were re-created for glossy four-color photos. "The food stylist was amazing; I didn't realize they would make everything," he says. "She used tweezers to put an orange peel on the dacquoise."
He's also proud of the stories in the pages. Not just a compendium of recipes, each recipe includes remarks about why it's special to Emmett and his family.
"A lot of it is about the stories, I liked telling the stories," Emmett says. "And my mom's excited about the book because now she has a book with all my favorite family recipes."
Despite the long process, Emmett hopes to do it again. He said he already has a proposal into the publisher for a savory-focused cookbook. And he won't have to win a cooking competition this time.
Sound bites from Brian EmmettAbout friends from "The American Baking Competition": "I talk with Darlene (a Mount Prospect native) all the time. We became really good friends."
On grocery shopping: "I shop every day for my food at night. I know, it's so European," he says with an eye roll. Jewel on Irving Park Road in Wood Dale, along with Whole Foods Market and Mariano's, are his favorites.
Weirdest item in his fridge: "A bottle of Cheez Whiz. My daughter got it; we filled celery for Easter."
Cheesy confession: "Velveeta is my go-to for macaroni and cheese. Velveeta, Parmesan and onion salt. That recipe will be in the next book."