Holly Bauer has done what millions of cooks and bakers wish they could do: She has impressed Emeril Lagasse.
When Bauer, a resident of rural Norwalk, saw information about Emeril's National Cheese Competition posted online, she knew she had to do something to stand out. Drawing on her eight years of cheesecake-making experience, she concocted her original Peach Flamb Cheesecake. She thinks the part of the recipe that calls for the peach brandy to be ignited caught Emeril's eye.
"Emeril is a very energetic man, and I wanted to do something that would catch his attention, and fire is something that would do that," she said.
The National Cheese Competition challenged viewers of Emeril's popular show on the Food Network to send in original recipes that involved cheese, along with a personal biography. The entries were judged on creativity, taste, and personality. Semifinalists chosen out of thousands of entrants were interviewed on the phone, and Bauer was one of four winners chosen from those.
A camera crew will come from New York City Wednesday to shoot preliminary footage of Bauer cooking her signature cheesecakes and her family and friends eating. This summer, she will fly to New York with her husband to attend a taping of Emeril Lagasse's show, during which he will bestow upon her one of the highest honors in cooking: He will prepare her own Peach Cheesecake Flamb and serve it to her.
Bauer said she got into making cheesecakes because nobody else in her family made them.
"My mom is the master of all that is cooking, so it interested me because it was so different from what she normally made," she said. Her husband, John, and 2-year-old son, Brennigan, watch Emeril's show with her and help her in the kitchen.
Although her winning recipe was the first one she ever wrote herself, Bauer said she now makes up new cheesecakes often. Apart from her job as the human resources administrator at Sandusky Packaging Corp., she also sells made-to-order cheesecakes.
Bauer had the opportunity to eat at one of Emeril's restaurants on a recent trip to Las Vegas, but it won't compare to meeting the man in person.
"I could not imagine a bigger honor than to go to New York and see the most famous chef in the world make my cheesecake," she said.
Bauer, a 2001 graduate of Monroeville High School, is the daughter of Darrell and Alexis Moll of Monroeville.