OSSINING, N.Y. – The parking lot at a football game is probably the last place you'd expect to see a fondant-draped cake, but it was fancy baking skills that landed one Ossining resident on the tailgating episode of Food Network "Chopped."
Gina Paterno Gray, who works in the banking field, didn’t expect to become widely known for her sinfully sweet goodies.
Like thousands of little girls, Gray had loved playing with her Easy Bake Oven, but later she found she had a real knack for baking when co-workers went wild over her cakes, cupcakes and cake pops.
About six years ago, the mother of two was asked to create something special for an end-of-the-summer barbecue.
Her picnic cake, the first one she sold, came complete with watermelon, checkered tablecloth and … ants.
It was such a hit that Gray got bitten by the baking bug in an even bigger way and has been selling unique and whimsical treats as GG Cakes ever since by working out of her home in a commercial kitchen.
She said she was a little shocked after she was chosen to compete with three other football fans for the title of tailgating champion.
“That’s the funny part,” she said. “I’m a cake maker, but I’m cooking.”
Not to worry, though, Gray knows she can definitely hold her own. “Tailgating’s no different than hosting a party,” she said.
Potential contestants were asked to whip up a “pretend” tailgate feast as part of the culling process.
The food had to be above and beyond the usual dogs and burgers, so Gray put together a spread that included Buffalo chicken meatballs, hot dog BLTs, fig chutney glazed lamb chops and cilantro, lime and olive oil grilled corn.
Dessert, of course, was a vanilla football cake covered in chocolate fondant and filled with buttercream frosting.
Her sweet personality probably also had something to do with being picked.
“I’m part Thai and part Italian so in my application I told them I was a Thai-talian. I think they liked that,” Gray laughed.
The four competitors have to get through three rounds: appetizer, entrée and dessert.
None of them know exactly what they’ll be making, Gray said.
They get ingredients delivered in a basket and only have a certain amount of time to prepare their dishes.
If they get “chopped,” so to speak, that round’s losing entry is revealed as the host solemnly lifts a cover off a plate.
By the dessert round, only two chefs are left standing.
The show, which was filmed at Chelsea Market in New York City, is set to air at 10 p.m. EST Tuesday, Oct. 18 on the Food Network. (Channels vary by service, so check your listings.)
Gray, who knows the outcome of the contest but isn’t allowed to say -- the winner gets $10,000 -- is planning to have her GG Cakes website up and running ( www.ggcakesny.com ) before the show airs. In the meantime, check out her Facebook page .