The sweet taste of success
The sweet taste of success is covered with chocolate and lots of aloha. “The secret ingredient is Aloha. I put a lot of love in what I do,” said Maui’s Maile Crewdson, during the grand finale episode of the Great Chocolate Showdown.
The eight episode series aired on the Food Network in Canada, with the final bakeoff broadcast on April 19.
The 35-year-old stay-at-home mom of three “took the judges on a journey to Hawaiʻi with her flavors from home,” winning a $50,000 prize, and new found confidence in her refined baking skills.
Measuring up… where baking begins
According to Maile, her baking story started with inspiration from her childhood, but gained focus five years ago with the birth of her middle child, Cyrus.
“He was born with really severe food allergies in 2017. Towards the end of that year, I had to learn how to completely change the way that I ate. That was probably where this whole journey started,” said Maile in a phone interview following the win.
“I’ve always loved baking… I’d bake a cake once or twice a year, but nothing where it was learning techniques or baking for other people,” said Maile. “When my son was diagnosed, he was allergic to so many things, it was really like a grieving process.”
The shift started with a change in her diet to satisfy her newborn, and eventually became a lifestyle adjustment she embraced by learning and challenging herself to explore new recipes.
In 2020 she made croissants for the first time. Then every week or so, they’d load the kids up in a wagon and bring platefuls of donuts or malasadas to the neighbors, many of whom are elderly–to check on them during the pandemic.
Maile also posted pictures of some of her finished products to her @littlemauifamily Instagram, and that’s what caught the eye of a Food Network casting agent. But she waited until the second year of the pandemic before signing on, wanting to ensure it was the right fit for her and her family.
“Every step of the way, we were just like–Let’s just pray about it and let’s just keep walking in faith,” said Maile of conversations she would have with her husband, Ken.
Right before she flew out for the competition, Maile said her mom, Lauri Cerizo, bought for her a book on chocolate. It was the beginning of her formal education on the proper preparation of the decadent dessert. That was followed by videos on how to temper chocolate like a pro.
She thought to herself, “whatever I can’t do, I’m just going to go and give this 100%.”
Layers of love baked in-between
Throughout the series, baking contestants went through various challenges, testing their techniques at tempering chocolate, creating choux pastry, perfecting macarons, and utilizing surprise ingredients.
In each challenge, Maile found comfort in creating pieces reminiscent of home. In one challenge she made chocolate haupia mini-pies made in a canoe shaped mold–a playful piece that brought back memories of her days paddling with Hawaiian Canoe Club.
In the macaron contest, Maile used bananas in her theming, reflecting upon her youth, growing up in Haʻikū on a two acre apple-banana farm. She also helped on her grandparent’s kalo and fruit farm in Waiehu/Waiheʻe, where there were coconuts, and a variety of other trees including avocado, mango, and breadfruit.
She recalls going to work on the farms on the weekends to clean kalo, and harvest fruit to sell at the farmer’s markets like Eddie Tam in Makawao.
“And if I ever needed money for something, we would go and work extra, or my dad would help me make stuff so we could raise money to go on school trips. He always found a way using what we had,” Maile said of her father, Patrick Cerizo.
From her days at Doris Todd school, then Kalama Intermediate, and graduating with the class of 2003 at King Kekaulike High School, Maile is now nurturing a family of her own.
In another challenge, Maile created a raspberry cheesecake ice cream waffle sandwich with ruby chocolate. It was made as a tribute to her young family of five, who love waffles and try to make them every Saturday together.
“For my eldest daughter Ruby [age 7], I’m using Ruby chocolate; for my middle child Cyrus [age 5], I’m doing chocolate chips in the waffles; and for my youngest daughter Rosie [age 3], I’m going to put little roses on each bubble waffle,” she explained to the judges, who delighted in the joyful celebration of childhood.
The cherry on top
For the final challenge bakers had seven hours to complete four tasks in the Once Upon A Baker finale, which was judged on originality, presentation, and taste.
The instructions were precise: create an ode to a loved one who inspired their love of baking; complete a pre-selected judge’s choice order; craft an interactive dessert that’s playful and surprising; and pull off a dazzling showpiece.
For her inspiration piece, Maile baked Hawaiian-style malasadas (Portuguese donuts) filled with guava white chocolate pastry cream.
“Growing up, my dad would take me to the bakery as a special treat, and we would get Hawaiian malasadas–and that’s what started my love for baking,” said Maile during grand finale showdown.
“It’s the best style of donut that I’ve ever had in my life,” said judge Steve Hodge, pastry chef and master chocolatier during the program.
For the judge’s choice challenge, Maile was tasked with creating a chocolate raspberry Charlotte Royale–a sliced jellyroll cake that surrounds a luscious Bavarian raspberry creme white chocolate mousse.
As her interactive entry, Maile created a tempered dark chocolate heart with flourless chocolate almond torte within, featuring mascarpone cream.
“This interactive desert was so well thought out. That flourless chocolate cake is elegant and refined. The marscapone cream is rich, and then topping it with a combination of fig and mango really shows us how much your palate has grown,” said judge Anna Olson, pastry chef and best-selling cook book author during the final episode.
Rounding out her dessert story, Maile created a monstera leaf anti-gravity cake: with chocolate cake, a dark chocolate ganache, and a coconut milk chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream. The cake was completed with a tempered white chocolate rainbow collar.
Worried if her plant cake, inspired by foliage in her back yard, was a lofty enough entry, Maile reflected upon the theme.
Maile has since started the @cyrusbakingco Instagram page, calling it her “passion project.” “One of my dreams is to have a brick and mortar store, but right now I’m mostly baking for friends and family, [and] by word of mouth.”
From memorial services to friends giving birth, Maile has found herself baking for every occasion. “I’ve been so blessed to help out… that’s my heart, and I’m trying to get that off the ground right now–an allergy friendly, cottage style baking business,” she said.
Cyrus Baking Co. seeks to provide allergy friendly baked goods with rustic cakes for special occasions. Specialties are laid out in a colorful grid with delightful descriptions of Maile’s handmade creations.
An allergy friendly donut board was created for her son Cyrus’ birthday earlier this year, featuring old fashioned creations and confetti sprinkles. “Think Krispy Kreme meets Corner Bakery, but allergy friendly and hand-forged,” the caption reads.
Also on the grid is a gluten-free Hawaiian Guava White Chocolate Cake, described as “the vibrant pink star of the dessert board,” with fresh edible flowers from ʻĀinalani Farms.
Further down the feed is an Organic Meyer Lemon cake made with freshly-squeezed lemons from the family tree, and “plump-ripe blueberries sandwiched between pillows of lemon zest-vanilla buttercream.” Other back yard ingredients include mint and lilikoʻi.
While still in the passion stage of development, Maile used her neighborhood baker abilities to serve up 300 cookies and dozens of breads and rolls at the 8th Annual Waikapū Street Fair last Christmas.
Home sweet home
At home on Maui, Maile’s husband Ken, who works full time, got help watching the kids from his mom who flew out from Alaska, as well as Maile’s mom, who lives on island. There were also aunties and uncles who pitched in during the filming of the show.
“It was literally one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done in my life. I think it was more intense than giving birth three times,” Maile said with a laugh. “It was so hard because I felt… I think I’m kind of naive in a way. I didn’t know much about chocolate… I definitely felt like I was the least experienced baker there.”
“I was almost eliminated more than half of the season,” she said jokingly. “It’s truly funny. It was a really great experience.”
Rounding out the top three were office manager Bri, and Zoo guest services manager Evan.
“I loved cheering on my fellow competitors… Even though it was a competition, we all wanted to grow a lot and I think that set it apart from other shows,” said Maile. “We had so much fun, but the clock is real, and it was stressful, and it was really hard, but we also laughed a lot.”
When she won, her family was elated and celebrated the hopes for their future.
In an Instagram post, Maile said, “My kids were screaming, jumping up and down, cheering for Mom! It means we get to build our house here on Maui. I get to build my passion project Cyrus Baking Co. and bring more allergy friendly bakes to my community.”
Those dreams include peanut-free baked goods, supporting those with food allergies, gluten-free products, and vegan options.
She was hopeful that the experience would help her not only to learn and grow in baking, but also help to build their home. “It’s just so expensive,” she said.
In the end, Maile said her family is looking into what makes most sense financially. “We’re seriously looking into getting a food truck to sell malasadas,” she said. “I feel like there’s room for these kinds of things that reach a different demographic of people… reach the food allergy community.”
“I think our biggest joy right now in winning is that we can build our main house on our property and then build a bigger kitchen for me to expand my cottage baking business… and also, I’d love to invest in buying a food truck this fall, Lord willing.”
Filming of the Great Chocolate Showdown took place in Toronto Canada over a six week period in the fall and early winter.
The show just finished airing internationally, in Canada first; and the CW Network reportedly bought the first season recently. According to Maile, some viewers were able to tune in from Maui during the Canada broadcast by securing a VPN (Virtual Private Network) access.
It’s still undetermined if the show will air in the US.