PALMDALE – Erin Campbell, the general manager of Nadia Cakes in Palmdale, won the Holiday Baking Championship on the Food Network Sunday night, taking home $50,000 in winnings as the network’s first champion from the Antelope Valley.
The show’s competition finale featured a Gingerbread Worlds challenge, where the three remaining competitors were told to create a special holiday memory made of ginger-infused baked treats. Campbell created her own edible version of a Mad Hatter tea party that captivated the judges.
“They said if they had looked at all three displays standing side-by-side, they would have known which one was mine,” Campbell told The AV Times. “It was the very definition of who I am: whimsical, fun, festive, and just invested in everything I do.”
She described winning the Holiday Baking Championship as an “unfathomable” accomplishment to her baking career, explaining that Nadia Cakes is a creative outlet that encourages fellow bakers on staff to take license with their cupcake concoctions.
“I really feel that this has opened up a window for everyone to get some insight on the kind of chefs that we turn out at the shop,” she said. “When we hire people, we want to see that creativity. We want to be able to help them blossom.”
Nadia Cakes has two locations and is currently working on a third. The Palmdale shop was opened in 2009, and the Maple Grove, Minn. store followed in 2012. A third shop is scheduled to open in Woodbury, Minn. in early 2015, and Campbell will be leaving the Palmdale location to become the Maple Grove store’s general manager.
Currently in Minnesota hiring her staff of bakers for the company’s soon-to-be flagship store, Campbell said the winning ingredient for her baking success is simply “love.”
“Everybody who is involved in the company is so passionate about what they do, and they love coming to work every day,” she said. “And I really do believe that is what separates us from a mass bakery. You come in and you get an experience, and we want to put a smile on your face.”
Campbell said she plans to return to the Palmdale store next week to meet and greet with customers, confessing that she will truly miss the High Desert city that’s made her a “homegrown girl.”
“I have lived in the Antelope Valley since I was five, and I’m going to miss the sunshine and that small-town feel,” she said. “Being able to grow up in a small valley where everyone is connected has really shaped me into what I am today.”
Before studying at the culinary school at The Art Institute of Orange County, Campbell attended El Dorado Elementary School and Littlerock High School. In fact, her mind is still on school as she considers what to do with her $50,000 grand prize from the Food Network.
“I am going to pay off those pesky things called student loans,” she told The AV Times. “And it’s going to be nice to be able to write a big fat check to the loan company.”
As far as advice for fellow denizens of the Antelope Valley, Campbell said if there’s one thing she learned from her experience in the Holiday Baking Championship, it’s never to second guess your own abilities.
“I was running around the kitchen like a crazy lady, trying to get everything done, but I would always second guess myself – well, instead of doing a white chocolate sauce, I should do a peppermint whipped cream – you know. And I noticed that that actually affected me because I didn’t win until the finale. And it had a lot to do with the fact that I kept second guessing myself. So the moral of the story is to go with your intuition. When your heart tells you to do something, do it.”