A sweet claim to TV fame
WEC’s Yohann Le Bescond moves forward in the Food Network’s “Summer Baking Championship.”
Le Bescond prepares a donut-based creation on the Food Network’s “Summer Baking Championship.” [Rob Pryce]
Don’t adjust your set. That is indeed Yohann Le Bescond, the executive pastry chef at Ocala’s World Equestrian Center, competing on the Food Network’s “Summer Baking Championship.”
The new Food Network series premiered with two back-to-back episodes on Monday, May 15, at 9 p.m. on Food Network and Discovery+. Ten bakers from across the U.S. tackled summer-themed baking challenges featuring bright, tropical flavors and ingredients.
Hosted by Jesse Palmer, the cable-TV competition series features celebrity judges Duff Goldman, Carla Hall and Damaris Phillips, who will pick the $25,000 grand prize-winning “Summer Baking Champion.”Back in Ocala, Le Bescond hosted a viewing party with friends when the premiere aired on the Food Network. Photographer Dave Miller was among the guests and created stick masks with le Bescond’s face on them. Le Bescond baked treats for his guests.
“It was amazing,” Le Bescond said of the momentous occasion. “Everybody was so supportive and the feeling of bringing everybody together was pretty awesome.”
On the set
The series’ location, in the TV mecca of Burbank, in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, offered a good time for Le Bescond, but he couldn’t tell us how long he was there for the taping or he would be giving away how long he remained in the competition.
“It was pretty cool to be able to see actually two of my friends in L.A. during the shooting of the show,” he said.
With exhilaration and jitters, the first episode of the “Summer Baking Championship” kicked off with a sweet bang for Le Bescond, a native of France. He triumphed in the series’ first challenge: to create a donut in the shape of a swimming pool floatie.
An elegant white swan pool floatie would be his first creation in the championship.
“I went with a yeasted donut,” Le Bescond told the “Gazette.” “A lot of the other contestants went with a cake donut, either baked or fried,” he explained. “But I went with a yeasted one. I used French flavors and also American flavors to make a homemade mango ganache based on white chocolate. I also used cream cheese frosting. I really liked how the mango went with the tartness of the cream cheese frosting. I think those two components went really well together.”
Palmer recognized Le Bescond’s swan floatie as first place-winner during the first round of many competitions yet to come.
Goldman, a pastry chef known for participating in the Food Network’s “Ace of Cakes,” “Iron Chef America” and “The Masked Singer,” praised the piping on Le Bescond’s swan and complimented him for making it look both like a floatie and a delicacy.
“It’s a mango tango!” exclaimed Hall, former co-host of ABC’s “The Chew” and a regular on TV cooking shows.
The second challenge befuddled Le Bescond a little. It required a water design feature made of gelatin, which is not a typical staple on a French dessert menu. But he overcame his trepidation and designed a cake with raspberry filling topped with a picturesque forest design and freshwater pools paying homage to Silver Springs State Park.
He expressed relief when given permission to skip the add-on challenge of adding edible water balloons to the aquatic dessert and he was chosen to move on to the next round of competitions.From the French coast to Ocala countryside
Le Bescond grew up in a rural setting and didn’t anticipate ever living in the “Horse Capital of the World” while growing up in Treffiagat, in Brittany, a peninsula in northwest France. He started baking at 13, helping his mother with pavlovas in the kitchen. As a teenager, he apprenticed in a pastry chef baccalaureate program and was only 15 when he graduated summa cum laude.
“The kids in my class considered me a nerd, but I was very good at school,” Le Bescond shared. “I think my teachers wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer, and I was like, ‘No, I just like to bake,” he added with a laugh.
At 18, Le Bescond moved to Rennes, a bigger city in Brittany, to start the Brevet Technique des Métiers Pâtissier program at La Faculté des Métiers. The pastry prodigy again graduated summa cum laude.
He was later offered an internship with the sugar master Stephane Klein to learn how to create artistic showpieces and completed an internship in Vienna, working in local bakeries and pastry shops while finishing two additional certifications in candy and ice cream.
Le Bescond was 20 when he moved to Miami in 2016 to lead the pastry department at Le Macaron, the popular macaron and pastry shop. Working his way up from sous-chef to executive chef and manager, Le Bescond led and designed dessert experiences for five-star hotels and the American Airlines Arena while leading the team at Le Macaron.
“I had no clue what I was doing, and, if I’m being honest with you, I was young and wild, and underage, because, in Europe, you are an adult at 18, but coming to the U.S. before you’re 21, you’re still underage,” Le Bescond reminisced. “So, I was like, ‘Oh my God, I cannot drink! I cannot go to the club! I cannot do all those things I’ve been doing for the last three years!”
The Food Network contest wasn’t Le Bescond’s first baking competition. He won second place in Pierre Caron’s national contest for puff pastry creation and was awarded an Extraordinary Ability Green Card.
Le Bescond lives a few minutes from WEC with his partner, Jeremy Le Blanc. Le Bescond creates sweet sensations for the resort’s cafes and restaurants and expressed enthusiasm about the new coconut-inspired summer dessert at WEC’s fine-dining restaurant, Stirrups.
“It’s a take on the southern coconut cake,” he said, “but it’s transformed. It literally looks like a coconut. We were able to re-create the coconut shape and texture with chocolate. It’s filled with coconut cake and coconut mousse and mango. It’s really, really good.”
During the second of the back-to-back episodes that aired on May 15, Le Bescond designed unique ice-cream creations — the first, an ice-cream sandwich created in the triangular form of a club sandwich. Though he didn’t win the episode’s contests, he did, however, receive praise for his desserts and made it to the next episode, so stay tuned.
To learn more, go to foodnetwork.com/shows/summer-baking-championship