New Recipe: Jamaican baker Chiantae Campbell on Food Network

Spring Baking Championship returned to the Food Network on February 22 with a new batch of bakers competing for a chance to win the $25,000 prize and the title of Spring Baking Champion.

Among the competitors: Florida-based, Jamaican-bred Chiantae Campbell. And, though it’s still early into the season, she is already known for her use of bold flavours and colours, with her Jamaican heritage credited as her main source of inspiration.

Though Campbell’s hot-crust bread did not quite rise to the occasion on the March 8 episode the judges still appreciated the flavourful creation. It was a close call, with Campbell landing in the bottom two during eliminations, but her bread was enough to secure her a spot on the following week’s episode and too, the next round! Two episodes later and Campbell is on to round 6, with the cake she created for the ‘Spring Babies’ challenge described as “one of her best desserts so far” by judge Kardea Brown.

Spring Baking Championship is hosted by Ali Khan, known for the Cooking Channel show Cheap Eats, and judged by Kardea Brown, Nancy Fuller, and Duff Goldman. It airs Monday nights on Food Network at 9:00 pm ET/PT.

Thursday Food enjoys a few rounds of Kitchen Talk.

Thursday Food (TF): Tell us about those early years in Jamaica.

Chiantae Campbell (CC): I was born in West Palm Beach, FL, to entrepreneurs Ann and Bertram Campbell, but spent my early years in Jamaica between the parishes of St James and Westmoreland. It was a treat, to say the least and an amazing experience because I was able to spend quality time with my family and loved ones essentially without a care in the world. Some of my best memories include running out to greet the ice-cream man every Sunday after hearing the sound of his horn toot in the distant lane and enjoying this delicacy with the other neighbourhood kids. I also vividly remember getting piggyback rides to my grandmother’s house and staring into her beautiful blue eyes as she’d fill my little hands with candy and balloons from her corner shop.

I attended Montego Bay Preparatory School and Montego Bay High School for Girls and returned to the United States after graduating in 2015.

TF: What was the first thing you ever baked?

CC: My first memory of something I’ve baked was banana bread.

TF: Was it a hit or a miss?

CC: It was a COMPLETE HIT! My sister and I made it from some recipe she was testing at the time and everyone loved it. Over the years I’ve been able to formulate a recipe myself that is now a huge show-stopper.

TF: When and how did the baking journey take off?

CC: I would have to say in high school. One Mother’s Day, I made some cupcakes for my mom, decorated them beautifully, then posted them on my Instagram page. A friend of mine saw them and fell in love. She commenced requesting that I bring her some at school the following Monday. I then made a counter-offer stating that if she could pay for them I’d happily do so. She agreed, and that is how my first at-home bakery business began back in the ninth grade.

TF: And the birth of Chic Little Cakes?

CC: Chic Little Cakes officially opened in Miami in 2019. It started out as me making cakes for friends and supplying my cousin’s office with samples, which quickly turned into orders, and so much more.

TF: What’s your most sought-after cake?

CC: My clients go crazy about so many of my cake flavour options, but I’d have to say one of my most popular requests is for my Beer Vibes flavour which consists of lush layers of vanilla cake soaked in the famous Appleton Estate Jamaican rum. Filled with cookie crumb and caramel drizzle. All coated in vanilla bean Swiss meringue buttercream.

TF: How did you land a spot on the Food Network Spring Baking Championship?

CC: Interestingly enough, a casting representative of theirs reached out to me via e-mail as she thought I’d be a great fit. I then went through a series of cast interviews, and the rest is history.

TF: Your Jamaican heritage, bold flavours, and colours have been the hallmark of your success. Indeed, it appears to have saved you on episode 3. What say you?

CC: I pride myself on creating flavour combinations that represent who I am as a person. The same goes for my use of colour and design concepts. We all know how Jamaicans feel about flavour and its need to be present in all that we make in the kitchen. For me, the same goes for cakes. Insipid baking is simply not in my genes!

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