The Crusader Newspaper Group

Chef from the West Side competes in baking competition show

Carla Hall hosts the return of Food Network’s  “Best Baker in America,” and Chicago’s Felicia Mayden is one of ten bakers (and the only one chosen from Illinois) who are testing their skills to create desserts from states across the country.

FELICIA MAYDEN AT work doing so easily what comes so naturally to her—frosting a cake.

Ten world-class bakers battled it out on the new season of “Best Baker in America,” which premiered  its first episode this past Monday, May 3, at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Food Network’s  Carla Hall hosts all the action, tasking the bakers over eight episodes with challenges designed to put their baking skills and technical proficiency to the test for a chance to walk away with $25,000 and the coveted title.During each episode, the bakers must create elegant and delicious baked goods from different states across the country in two rounds – a Master Challenge that tests their mastery of the essential baking techniques and prowess working with specific flavors and ingredients. The least successful bakers in the Master Challenge must go head-to-head in a Bake-Off round where they have a chance to save themselves from elimination. Judges  Gesine Prado and Jason Smith decide which bakers possess the artistry and creativity to advance in the competition. Only one will rise to the top to earn the grand prize and be crowned.  “Best Baker in America!” “Carla Hall’s enthusiasm, charisma and engaging wit, combined with her passion and culinary expertise makes her the perfect host as these talented bakers must impress with their baking skills and delectable desserts to prove that they have what it takes to be the Best Baker in America,” said Courtney White, President, Food Network. Hall, who is a celebrated Chef who had her own ABC cooking show along with other Chefs, isn’t the only one who is enthusiastic about this returning show. Felicia Mayden, who grew up in the Austin neighborhood, is proud to represent Chicago in this competition. The Crusader was able to reach out to Mayden to find out more about her baking expertise. “I first discovered my love for baking when I was about 12 years old. After watching and helping my family bake for various holidays, I began baking at home just because I loved it,” she said. “I baked for every single bake sale throughout high school. It was during high school that I decided to go to culinary school.”Mayden attended Kendall College, which is now a part of National Louis University.  She later received a AAS in Baking and Pastry Arts, and a BA in Hospitality Management with a concentration in Foodservice and Beverage management. She has been in her position at Ace for more than two years but can’t say that she has a specialty. “I don’t limit myself to having just one or two specialties.  I try to hone in on as much as I can to be well rounded.” Mayden says that at work she is at liberty to let her creative juices flow. “I love baking, confections and chocolate work. As a Chef, I don’t limit myself to just one type of cuisine because the world is made up of so many different cuisines, so I try to learn and try as much as I can to have a more diverse knowledge of different cuisines.”This is Mayden’s first baking competition, and she is excited for a couple of personal reasons. “I hope to accomplish more reassurance that I am going down the right path in my career. This industry is hard, especially as a Black single mom,” she said. “I also want to show my son that you can do anything that you put your mind to.

CHICAGO’S FELICIA MAYDEN stands tall as she represents Illinois in “The Best Baker in America.”

”The Chef also encourages her fellow Chefs as much as she can. “Chicago has so many amazing restaurants, and I frequent rest- aurants where my friends work to support them. It’s important that we boost each other up, and it’s nice to see them in action, too.”

This season’s baking challenges for “The Best Baker in America” focus on creating unique versions of classic American desserts from different states. The 10 bakers from different states, gather in the season premiere to begin their first challenge designed to test their limits. They are first challenged to whip up a Kentucky May Day Piecaken with bourbon as the feature flavor. For the second challenge, the bakers’ talents are tested in a challenge inspired by Florida’s signature key lime pie. Other episodes during the season challenge the bakers’ abilities to create sweet treats from the mid-Atlantic, Rocky Mountains, Northern Plains, Midwest, the Pacific, and more. Prado and Smith will deliberate to determine who gets eliminated and who will be crowned the newest winner of Best Baker in America! So, let’s tune in and cheer a Chicago native on—one cup of sugar at a time!


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Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is the Entertainment Editor for the Chicago Crusader. She is a National Newspaper Publishers Association ‘Entertainment Writing’ award winner, contributor to “Rust Belt Chicago” and the author of “Old School Adventures from Englewood: South Side of Chicago.” For info, Old School Adventures from Englewood—South Side of Chicago ( or email: [email protected].

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