OSSINING, N.Y. – Ossining resident Gina Paterno Gray has run a successful dessert making business for years, so the irony of being sidelined by a puff pastry, she says, does not escape her.
When the owner of GG Cakes got picked to participate in the Food Network’s "Chopped: Tailgate Greats," she had visions of scoring the top $10,000 prize for best chef.
The show was filmed at Chelsea Market in New York City and aired on Tuesday, Oct. 18.
The mom of two works in the banking business but hopes someday to make cakes her sole stock in trade.
A huge football fan, Gray was not shy about promising to take the other contestants “down.”
And she made one brilliant play after the other: The umpires, aka judges, were impressed with her appetizer, a sausage, ham and cheese breakfast slider and entrée, a Thai-talian Taco with peanut-coconut sauce that she said reflected her “melting pot” heritage.
So when she made it through all the way to desserts – her area of expertise – she thought she had it in the pastry bag, so to speak.
She and the last foe standing, Frank West, a police detective and tailgating aficionado, were each given a basket of ingredients that included: football-shaped Whoopie pies, white nectarines, raspberry beer and potato chips.
(Whoopie pies, Maine’s ubiquitous dessert, are neither cookie nor cake, but something in between. Basically, they are Devil Dogs on steroids: two rounded mounds of chocolate cake, encasing a diabetic coma-inducing pile of vanilla frosting.)
Gray whipped up an elegant looking raspberry-topped trifle by crumbling up the Whoopie pies and potato chips and layering them in ramekins with chocolate ganache, orange zest, nectarines sautéed in raspberry beer and bacon carmelized in molasses.
Things weren’t looking so good for West at first. He tried to make the Whoopie pies into a batter for chocolate funnel cakes, but failed to put in a binder like eggs or flour and wound up having to toss the first batch.
The clock was ticking down when West went for a Hail Mary and threw in some white flour into the mix. He came up with a workable fried cake that he topped with the nectarines.
Then Gray, who was also under the gun, decided to use phyllo dough to make a flaky crust -- that was where, she says, she fumbled the ball.
There simply wasn’t enough time for the crust to bake all the way through, and while one of the judges praised the rest of the trifle as “awesome” another gave Gray the flag, dubbing it “raw dough.”
“I was hoping that last play would be the one that got me over the goal line,” Gray said on the show, adding: “It was an epic fail.”
While feeling “bummed” and “disappointed,” Gray congratulated West, saying he “definitely deserved to win.”
But all is not lost: Gray could be getting back in the game.
She may have the opportunity to participate in Food Network's “Redemption,” the show that gives the folks in second place another shot.
Gray said she has been buoyed by the warm response to her appearance on the show.
Orders for her specialty cakes and other goodies have poured in since it aired.
And, she said cheerfully, “I was recognized at Starbucks!”