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Utah baker into finals of Food Network’s ‘Holiday Baking Championship’

First Published      Last Updated Dec 17 2015 05:06 pm

Utah baker and culinary instructor Adalberto Diaz is one of three finalists in the "Holiday Baking Championship" competition on Food Network.

Diaz, who owns Salt Lake City's Fillings and Emulsions bakery and teaches culinary classes at Utah Valley University, will compete on Sunday, Dec. 20, for the $50,000 grand prize. Check local listings for times.

In the final, Diaz will face Maeve Rocheford, a San Diego bakery owner, and Steve Konopelski, a pastry chef and bed-and-breakfast owner from Maryland.

To earn the grand prize, the three contestants will bake and decorate a sugar cookie tree in a preliminary round. The winner will get an advantage in the final heat, where the finalists will need to transform a holiday tradition into an intricately decorated cake.

The weekly competition started Nov. 1 with eight bakers from across the country.

Diaz has continually impressed celebrity judges Duff Goldman, Nancy Fuller and Lorraine Pascale with his baking skills, serving items such as butternut squash cake and bourbon pecan pie. He won the semifinal round on Sunday, Dec. 13, when he created a winning flourless chocolate cake with spiced pears and salted caramel. The recipe is available at foodnetwork.com/shows/holiday-baking-championship.

Things haven't always gone smoothly for the Cuban-born chef. Two weeks ago, he was in the bottom two and nearly was kicked off. And in an early round, he put too much peppermint into a holiday dessert and the judges jokingly referred to it as "peppermint-gate."

No matter how he fared during the weekly episodes, Diaz re-created the items at his bakery, 25 W. Kensington Ave., often selling out.