Local baker, Libby Ryan, competed on Food Network’s ‘Chopped Sweets’ which aired this past week.
Ryan, Just Baked Cake Studio and Bakery owner, competed on the show’s ‘Bejeweled and Bedazzled’ episode and took home second place!
Chopped Sweets is hosted by Scott Conant, an American celebrity chef, restaurateur, and frequent host and judge of many Food Network competition shows. During Chopped Sweets, Conant challenges four pastry chefs to create desserts using random ingredients with an extremely tight time limit.
Chefs competed in three rounds showcasing a different technique in each one: candied, baked, and frosted.
After each round of competition, one pastry chef is eliminated from the competition. The last chef standing gets to claim the $10,000 prize!
About three years ago, Ryan was on another Food Network competition to make Cat Cora and Nichole Ehrlich’s wedding cake. Cora made history in 2005 by becoming the first woman Iron Chef.
While Ryan did not win the competition to make Cora’s wedding cake, she was hired to cater Cora’s rehearsal dinner.
Food Network invited Ryan back to compete on another Food Network show.
After several Zoom interviews, Ryan was asked to compete on Chopped Sweets’ Bejeweled and Bedazzled’ episode, filmed in February 2020, right before California went into lockdown due to the pandemic. Judges for the episode were Natalie Sideserf and Maneet Chauhan.
“It was a ton of fun, and it is very much like what you see–it is really only 30 minutes, you are using foreign equipment that you don’t know how to use. You are trying not to trip over hundreds of camera wires and people because they are at every angle of you,” Ryan said.
For round one, Ryan used the required ingredients honeydew melon, giant ring candy, silver leaf, and mosaic jello mold to create churros with a gelatin mold chantilly and pistachio brittle!
“The judges were amazing but really tough,” said Ryan, but she moved on through the competition with many praises from the judges.
After the first round, host Conant asked Ryan why she wanted to become a pastry chef.
Ryan went on to share her story.
For Ryan’s son’s ninth birthday, he wanted a skateboard cake. Ryan explained as a single mother working in retail; she couldn’t afford such a cake from a bakery. So Ryan made the cake herself, learning from YouTube.
Ryan then posted a photo of her son’s cake on Facebook, and before she knew it, Ryan had opened her bakery, Just Baked Cake Studio, and Bakery!
“That gives me the chills. That is amazing,” said Conant.
Ryan went head to head with pastry chef Monica Glass for the final round.
The two were challenged to create a dessert using ingredients, including a sapphire cake, candied necklace, edible glitter, and mamey fruit. Chefs were meant to showcase their frosting skills during this round.
Ryan created a semi-naked, mamey-sapphire cake by repurposing the sapphire cake to create miniature cakes for the judges with Swiss and American mamey buttercream frosting.
Ryan made it to the end of the competition but unfortunately lost to pastry chef Monica Glass.
Unfortunately, Ryan did not win the competition but is proud of herself for how far she has come.
“I was really proud of myself to be with these three classically trained pastry chefs, and I just didn’t want to go home first,” said Ryan.
Ryan had no idea that once she returned home after filming last February that her life and business would change dramatically due to COVID-19.
Like many small businesses, Just Baked Cake Studio and Bakery received a significant hit from wedding cancellations.
Ryan had 126 weddings moved from 2020 to 2021. And now, in just the last month, she has seen 27 weddings cancel or reschedule to 2022.
All Ryan’s weddings from January thru March have been canceled. Weddings booked for November have even started to change their plans.
“Having them start to cancel this year is really hurting,” Ryan shared.
Like everyone else, Ryan had to make some tough decisions and decided to closed her bakery in Santa Margarita during the first two-week lockdown.
When she realized the lockdown and COVID weren’t going anywhere anytime soon, Ryan and her staff got creative.
“We had to pivot. We started doing deliveries, and since everyone had their kids at home, we were doing DIY cake kits, DIY cookie kits to stay busy and we were surprisingly busy that entire time and what we found was everyone was still celebrating their birthday. Whether it was smaller, drive-by, or whatever they were still celebrating.”
On Aug. 1, 2020, Ryan opened her second location of Just Baked in the Paso Market Walk on Spring Street.
“With our opening at the Market Walk, it’s been great. We were very well received within the community, but there are so many other restaurants in there that were not getting the foot traffic that we were anticipating because nobody’s coming in to eat because they can’t eat inside. That’s been very frustrating for us,” said Ryan.
Ryan also mentioned that when indoor seating is an option, business picks up for everyone located in the Market Walk. But when indoor dining is prohibited, everyone suffers.
Due to shutdowns and not enough foot traffic, Ryan decided to close her Santa Margarita location for retail. Ryan still has two part-time staff making cookie dough at the site to be baked at their Paso Robles location.
To make up for the loss of wedding revenue, which accounts for one-third of her business, Ryan and her team of 11 employees are taking as many custom orders as they can.
Ryan and her team of bakers have been working hard regardless of how many times they have to pivot with restrictions and changes.
For the second year in a row, Just Baked received Best Bakery and Best Cake in North County for the Best of North SLO County 2021 polls!
Despite all of the 2020 woes, being able to compete on Food Network’s Chopped Sweets was the highlight of it all.
“It was an amazing experience. I had so much fun, and I would love to go back and do it all again,” said Ryan.
Just Baked is the only bakery in the county with KETO options. They also carry gluten-free and vegan options every day.
And starting at 8 a.m. every morning, breakfast is served at what Ryan calls her little “secret breakfast club”!
New flavors and treats are always rotating in the bakery, so be sure to follow them on Social Media @justbakedslo for updates!
Just Baked Cake Studio and Bakery is located inside the brand new Paso Market Walk at 1803 Spring Street—just a few blocks from Downtown.
Ryan’s episode ‘Bejeweled and Bedazzled’ can be watched on Discovery+, and be sure to stop by her bakery, Just Baked in Paso Robles, located in the Paso Robles Marketplace, to say hello!