RIDGEFIELD, Conn. – Her family might be sick of testing the Cherry Almond Brunch Tart, but the judges at the Pillsbury Annual Bake-Off enjoyed it enough to award Ridgefield resident Antoinette Leal third place.
Of the 100 finalists who were flown to the Aria hotel in Las Vegas for the contest, Leal’s tart was the only pastry that made it to the top three.
“I had so much fun. It was fantastic,” she said. “The way the set up is designed is it’s in a huge ballroom, it’s rows and rows of your workstations.”
Each work station has GE stoves and a staging area for each of the contestants to prepare and display their masterpieces. Before the event began, Leal said they marched around the contest floor to cheers from spectators. Then contestants get three-and-a-half hours to create a masterpiece to serve up to the judges.
“I wound up making it twice,” Leal said of her tart, explaining that her oven was running too hot before handing her first tart in to the judges.
During the awards ceremony, Leal said she was on several group texts with her family and friends. But when her name was called, she didn’t have time to send a message to anyone.
“I threw my cell on the table, and my friend picked up my cell and texted that I came in third.” Leal said.
Three names were called for contestants to go the stage, in no order, she said. So when Leal went up, she had no idea where she had landed -- she could have won $1 million and not known.
“It was so neat to just be up on stage with Padma Lakshmi and the Doughboy,” Leal said of the host of "Top Chef" and the Pillsbury mascot.
She was awarded $5,000 from Pillsbury and $2,500 in GE appliances. What appliance does she plan to get? Leal says a stove is what she wants.
“I’m pretty sure I’m going to get a new stove, which is about $1,800. I think I’m just going to sit on it for a while,” Leal said.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.