By Sarah Siock
Three Rider students virtually battled it out in a live bake-off, on March 19, by preparing their tastiest dessert recipes in hopes of being crowned the winner of 107.7 The Bronc’s Dessert Wars.
While the annual baking competition typically takes place in-person at Daly Dining Hall, the radio station chose to keep the tradition alive despite the coronavirus pandemic and host a virtual installment of Dessert Wars.
“The one thing we wanted to do was try to give the students the experience as close [as] we can to what we used to do. I think it helps to give people a sense of normalcy. It’s not perfect but it keeps students engaged whether they are at home or on campus,” said John Mozes, the general manager of The Bronc.
This year’s competition required participants to prepare a dessert that contained the ingredient flour. From Feb. 15 through March 12, students had the chance to submit the recipe of their dish on the radio station’s website. Once the submission entry period closed, a panel of judges, that consisted of staff members from Rider’s food service company Gourmet Dining, selected three students to be the Dessert War finalists.
Chosen from 22 submission entries, this year’s finalists were: junior business management major Hannah Waksman, with liege waffles and wild berry cheesecake ice cream, senior marketing major David Brooks, who whipped up lighter than air doughnuts cascaded with warm glaze and Nutella filled holes and Gabrielle Orszulak, a graduate student studying business communication, who baked tropical pineapple upside-down doughnuts with toasted coconut ice cream.
From March 14 through March 19 the Rider community voted for its favorite finalist’s recipe on The Bronc’s website. The finalists were given one last opportunity to persuade voters with a live 10-minute baking demonstration over Zoom — as the contestants prepared their dishes, voting remained open.
While there was no other option except for the competition to be virtual, Mozes said the new format does offer some benefits that are absent from the in-person Dessert Wars.
“It does let you see the contestants’ personalities. It gives you a chance to see them in a different light,” said Mozes, who asked the contestants questions as they prepared their desserts over Zoom. “When you see them at Daly’s [Dining Hall], for the live competition, they’re exhausted because they’ve been on their feet for six hours making desserts samples. What I have noticed is that virtually we can engage more with them.”
Ultimately, Orszulak was crowned the winner and named Rider’s premiere student pastry chef. Orszulak’s win was a long time coming, as she has submitted a recipe every year since 2018 when she was still completing her undergraduate degree at Rider. However, this was Orszulak’s first year being named a finalist.
Orszulak said, “I definitely have a passion for both cooking and baking. I enjoy being the friend or family member who makes cupcakes or a cake for someone’s birthday or even just baking cookies on a Friday night. I feel that my recipe really fits the theme of the challenge well and does a nice job in honoring this week that would’ve been spring break.”
Orszulak explained she found her recipe while looking through a dessert book, and she prepared the dish for her first time during the competition. Her demonstration included making the donuts from scratch.
“The recipe presented me with a fun new way to challenge myself in baking,” said Orszulak.
As the winner Orszulak won several prizes including a $300 gift card to K.K. Sweets, a bakery in Hamilton, New Jersey, and a Pepsi blue Cycle Force mountain bike. Second place went to Waksman and third place went to Brooks, with each winning a gift card to K.K. Sweets as well.
“I’ve wanted to be picked since my first year at Rider and I finally had that chance. I enjoy the competitive aspect, but I also just really wanted to have fun doing something I enjoy,” said Orszulak