For Jewel Johnson, Food Network’s Candy Land was the ultimate sweet treat.
Food Network fans have watched Jewel Johnson showcase her baking talents on several baking competitions. When the opportunity to step into the ultimate sweet fantasy land of Food Network’s Candy Land presented itself, Jewel couldn’t resist.
In the past year, home bakers have marveled and tried to recreate the beautiful creations that Food Network presents. Although some of those baking fantasies seem unreal, they captivate the imagination. From edible art to pushing flavor boundaries, desserts have found a way to bring people happiness.
Recently, Jewel Johnson spoke to FoodSided about her experience on Food Network baking competitions, like Candy Land, her thoughts on desserts, and her advice for aspiring bakers.
For some Food Network fans who turned into Candy Land, they knew Jewel as a familiar face. She had competed on Food Network’s Halloween Wars seasons six and eight, as well as Chopped: Sweets Showdown. While she has experience, Candy Land was different.
Jewel said, “Candy Land will be my new favorite. I had the best time experiencing one of my favorite childhood games in such a huge way. Being able to reach into the trees of the Lemon Lime Springs and pull out a surprise ingredient to bake with, or snack on a cookie from the life size gingerbread house in Chocolate Mountain, I never thought it was possible to do those things, and Candy Land brought it life.”
While Candy Land is like stepping into a confectionery fantasy, Jewel was inspired by the Food Network premises. Jewel said, “The challenges of Candy Land were as outrageous as they are colorful. The most challenging aspect for me was definitely staying out of Licorice Lagoon! I was terrified of having to go there.”
Looking at the various challenges, Jewel did have a clear favorite. She said, “My favorite challenge would have to be our carnival themed challenge. It was our most colorful and fun piece, we each poured ourselves into the final result so much and made an amazing piece that the judges loved.”
Even though Candy Land is a game, everyone has a favorite land. For Jewel, she has a preference. Jewel said, “The Candy Land realm that I would love to live in is Chocolate Mountain or maybe Gumdrop Mountains. I love the colors , smells and vibrant laughter we had in both of them. Plus, I ate the most candy in both of those places.”
Although all the foraging in Candy Land was part of the competition hazard, Jewel knows her way around both the restaurant kitchen and a bakery. As both a pastry chef and a cake maker, she has found the balance of both aspects of the culinary arts.
Jewel said, “I can honestly say having been a restaurant pastry chef and a cake maker are equally beneficial, and they both spark different kinds of creativity in me. Being a chef puts me in a great creative mindset for flavors and textures. Making cakes, candies, and sugar pieces, puts me in an amazing creative mindset for colors and shapes and visually artistic ideas. I am rarely ever bored or lacking inspiration in either aspect of my career. “
When looking at her desserts, many of those treats are a total sensory experience. As seen in the Candy Land episodes to her own creations, it is more than just an one note bite. It is a conscious decision to put all those details into her desserts.
Jewel said, “To me dessert is the most important thing in our lives. You don’t propose over a steak and potatoes, you ask with a luscious chocolate cake or crunchy creamy crème Brule. Evoking a total sensory experience is important to me because I would like people to be enamored by my plates. Food should be an experience, if you can remember the best dessert you’ve ever had, how it tasted, why you loved it, and why it is something you’ll never forget, then that chef did something right.”
Like many restaurant chefs this year, Jewel has had to learn to adapt and pivot. She spoke candidly about her experiences in the past year.
“Being a pastry chef has been a difficult job this year for sure. Before shut down I was working as a chef instructor, having to leave that position and find a new way of doing business had been tough for me at first. A lot of restaurants are transitioning from having a pastry department to outsourcing their desserts or eliminating them all together. I have the ability to work in the savory department knowing that I have loyal cake clients, as well as making new ones is majorly important to me. Chefs everywhere have been put into a position of figuring it out and sometimes reinventing themselves as a brand or their way of doing business. I am hopeful that our industry can survive and evolve with a new way of doing what we all love.”
As the chefs, like Jewel, share their talents with home cooks, it has led many people to increase their love of baking. While many people dream of creating those delicious bites at home, it does come with trial and error.
Jewel shares these poignant words with home bakers. “The best advice that I feel I can give people baking at home to cope during this time is to have fun and don’t give up. Years ago the very first thing I made for my family I lovingly refer to is Voldemort, because we’re not going to talk about how bad it was! However, I can tell you I had a lot of fun making it. The more you do things the better you’ll get. The more fun you have doing it the more you’ll want to do it. Baking has always brought me comfort and good vibes, and I hope it will do the same for you.“
If you are looking for some more baking inspiration, be sure to check Green Jeans Cakes, which is owned by Jewel Johnson.
Also, don’t forget to catch up with Candy Land on Food Network and the Food Network app.