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December 15, 2017

Aristo Camburako competes in the ‘Holiday Baking Championship.’

We know our culinary graduates are great and now so does the rest of America, thanks to the Food Network.

Aristo Camburako, executive chef for the DoubleTree Hotel in Overland Park, specializes in smoking meats and cooking soups and sauces. But when he was chosen to compete in season four of the Food Network’s “Holiday Baking Championship,” he found himself creating elaborate baked goods against some of the best pastry chefs in the business.

Camburako, who graduated from JCCC's Chef Apprentice program, got a phone call last January from the Food Network. He was surprised to hear that he was being considered for the network's annual baking competition. “They were looking for a savory chef to compete against the bakers, to add a little twist,” he said. “To even be considered was such an honor.”

After multiple Skype calls and a grueling interview process, Camburako was named one of nine contestants. There were about 30,000 applicants.

Unforgettable opportunity

The taping took place five months later, in June. Camburako was accustomed to long days on his feet, but making the TV show was exhausting, as well as fun. “The thing I most enjoyed was learning from the other pastry chefs and bakers,” he said. “Most of them own a bakery or are a pastry chef at a restaurant or hotel and are experts in this area.”

Unfortunately for Camburako, he was eliminated in the third round. “I love baking, but it’s a science,” he said. “You have to do it every day to be good at it, and I only do it a couple of times each month. The other bakers had recipes in their heads, so when they got the mystery ingredient, they knew exactly how to fit it in.”

As for his newfound celebrity, he said the DoubleTree had embraced his appearance on the show. During the holiday season, the hotel has hosted several client appreciation parties where Camburako served dishes he had baked in the competition. “Then I mingled with the crowd, shaking hands, kissing babies and all that,” he joked.

Legacy lives on

Camburako's favorite dish of the six desserts he made was the ginger cheesecake in episode two. There is a personal connection to that recipe, as cheesecake was one of his father’s favorite foods. Camburako lost his father 12 days before the show taped. “My father was an American Culinary Federation certified executive chef. We cooked together for years. He taught me so much,” Camburako said.  

Although he has spent most of his career working for hotels, Camburako grew up cooking in his family’s restaurants. His passion was to be a fourth-generation chef. “I wanted to be trained by the best, and that was at JCCC. The experience I received in the Chef Apprentice program is second to none. They have an outstanding faculty with great practical experience,” he said.

He feels so strongly about the Chef Apprentice program that he is taking on an apprentice at the DoubleTree. “I’ve always wanted to have a JCCC apprentice because the caliber of its students is so high. And I love to teach,” Camburako said.

Season four of the “Holiday Baking Championship” began airing Nov. 6 and runs throughout the holiday season. Episodes and airtimes can be found on the Food Network website.

Cook up your culinary career

If you want to know how your creativity in the kitchen can turn into a career, check out JCCC’s award-winning Chef Apprenticeship program.