The Nurse Who Baked Her Way To World Dessert Championship
NASHVILLE -- In a come-from-behind finish, pediatric nurse Lynn Smith baked her way to the title of World Dessert Champion at the 2015 World Food Championships in Florida.
The self-taught home cook shot from a 22nd ranking out of field of 37 competitors to first place in her category, being called to the Main Stage to pick up a five-foot long check for $10,000.
Smith’s joy of baking stems from her years spent in the kitchen with her mom who she described as an “amazing cook and baker.” She caught the competitive bug from her husband, Scott, a well-known barbecue competitor who has competed professionally for more than six years. Together the couple has amassed a barbecue record of Top 25 in the highly renowned Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) three years in a row. His team name, of which Smith has played a supporting role, is Que’n Stew’n Brew’n, and was the team name she adopted as she registered for the World Dessert Championship.
With her husband pre-qualified in the World Barbecue Championship, Smith won her own entry into the World Dessert Championships from her finish in the Top Ten of the 2014 World Food Championships in Las Vegas, Nevada. In fact, Smith would find herself at the top of the Top Ten in 2015.
Smith noted that many of the barbecue competitions her husband entered had additional side competition events, including ones for desserts. She began entering her baked goods in those ancillary competitions and soon won recognitions and awards of her own.
Opening Rounds for the Dessert category were scheduled as the very first official competition for the World Food Championships in the Kenmore Kitchen Arena, constructed across a full city block under an enormous tent. Fifty identical Kenmore-Pro outfitted kitchens lined the street. It was record-breaking hot for November, and the ovens were being fired up for the first time.
The Dessert competition at the World Food Championships required two different turn-ins for the opening round. The first turn-in was considered a Structured Build and required each contestant to create a “cupcake”. As the first turn-in time approached, the entire downtown area of Celebration, Florida, smelled like a giant birthday party as 37 competitors began sending cupcakes to the judges’ building.
For the Structured Turn-In of the opening round, Smith reached to a cupcake with apples, which she title “Fall Apple Pie Cupcake.” The spiced cake was stuffed with granny smith apples stewed in brown sugar and spices. It was topped with more brown sugar and apple pie spiced cream cheese icing, then drizzled with buttery caramel sauce. Drawing on her Georgia home, the cupcake was garnished with apple pie spice candied pecans. This first turn-in put her in second place in the category.
The Signature Dish was the second required turn-in. Competitors are given no requirements for ingredients or the type of dessert created for this recipe. Smith leaned on her Luscious Lemony Cake that had helped to land her in the fourth overall finish in the 2014 World Food Championships. The dessert is a moist layered lemon cake, brushed with Limoncello and filed with her homemade lemon curd and raspberry sauce and frosted with Limoncello buttercream. Clearly a lemon-lovers dream, the Signature Dish would place Smith in 22nd place.
The Signature Dish and Structured Dish were equally weighted in calculating the final score in the Opening Round. Smith’s combined final score at the end of the Opening Round left her in tenth place overall. This top come-from-behind score allowed her to advance to the next round of competition in the Top Ten round.
In this next phase Smith would face the top 10 scoring competitors in the Dessert category. The winner of this round would become the 2015 World Dessert Champion and claim a $10,000 prize purse. The round had only one opportunity for a recipe to come before the judges and the pressure was on.
The Top Ten Round required the competitors to deliver a recipe that showcased the Florida Strawberry. The category sponsor, the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, provided beautifully sweet strawberries for each cook to use during the competition. Smith’s game plan for this leg of the competition was to turn to the fruit to create a “Spectacular Strawberry Cake.” She used the Florida crop in five different ways for her dessert entry. That decision, along with her recipe and baking skill, earned this self-taught baker the highest score in the Top 10 Round. Smith became the 2015 World Dessert Champion and collected her giant check for $10,000 on the Main Stage of the World Food Championships.
Winning her Top 10 Round certainly gave Smith bragging rights and cash, but it also gave her the responsibility of representing the Dessert category at the Final Table competition. The Final Table would orchestrate a head-to-head challenge between the eight other top scoring winners of the categories of food sport represented at the World Food Championships. The talent pool was tough and the winnings were large. The World Food Champion, winner of the Final Table, would collect $100,000.
Smith would turn to her Top 10 strategy for her Final Table recipe. So impressed by the quality and taste of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association’s strawberries, she hopped in her car and drove to Plant City, Florida, to pick flats of strawberries to be used in her Final Table entry. She combined her moist white cake with stewed strawberries, her strawberry syrup, lemon curd and buttery strawberry frosting which she garnished with chocolate covered strawberries. As her Signature cake went all-in with lemon, her Top 10 Champ status and her Final Table recipe would hang on strawberry.
Smith stated she does not have a lot of time to bake and creates her recipes through trial and error.
“I just love cooking, especially around the holidays,” she said. This time, in the blazing heat in Florida, she would reach fourth best in the world’s most competitive kitchen against the very best of the best from this year’s chefs and home cooks. That is a pretty astounding record for the nurse whose mom taught her to stir the pot.As the reigning Dessert Champ, Smith is now challenged to return to the kitchen for the trial and error process that will allow her to defend her title in 2016. The trial-and-error process has already begun.
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