A sweet experience

  • Maria Short, owner of Hilo's Short N Sweet Bakery and Cafe, competes on season 6 of Food Network's "Holiday Baking Championship." (Photo courtesy Food Network)

HILO — Maria Short, owner of Hilo’s Short N Sweet Bakery and Cafe, said she had to really think about it when she was contacted about possibly participating on the sixth season of Food Network’s “Holiday Baking Championship.”

She had applied to and had been contacted before for other network shows and would get “pretty far in the process,” but “for whatever reason it never worked out.”

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While she knew it would be a lot, Short said in the end she would regret it if she didn’t try.

Owning a “little bakery in Hilo, I thought ‘what are the chances?’ (It was) quite a process and I’m super lucky to get on.”

Short, 53, lives in Kurtistown and is one of 10 bakers on “Holiday Baking Championship” competing for the chance to win a $25,000 grand prize and be featured on the new Food Network Kitchen app.

Season 6 premieres at 9 p.m. Pacific today on Food Network, which is channel 58 on Spectrum and 231 and 1231 on Hawaiian Telcom.

Short said the “very involved” process to be cast began nearly a year ago. She found out she had made it onto the show in the spring and filming took place in Los Angeles in July.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, other than giving birth, I think,” Short said. “It was very demanding. It’s really difficult to do. I was the oldest contestant there. Having to readjust to the pace on the mainland and L.A. and just filming in general was very difficult for me. Coming from Hilo and going to that was like going from 0 to 100 in 60 seconds, but I loved it.”

The group really bonded, said Short, and she learned much during her time on the show.

“It was a very intense learning experience,” she said. “I had never done TV before. I was learning all of that, learning all of the different styles and techniques and flavor profiles.”

Her fellow competitors hail from all over the country.

“Being in the middle of the ocean, you’re kind of in a bubble, kind of segregated from what’s going on on the mainland,” Short said. “It’s very cool to see what they’re doing in California, Boston and Georgia.”

As far as challenges, Short said it was interesting to see how the body reacted under intense scrutiny. Even “every day normal things you’re going to do that would never faze me,” would cause her hands to shake.

But the best part of the experience are the lasting friendships.

Short said the castmates still talk and some of her fellow contestants are planning to visit in the future.

“If anybody is thinking about it, just try it,” she said. “It was the experience of a lifetime. I’m forever grateful I’m given that opportunity.”

Short has owned Short N Sweet for 15 years — which operated for five years in Hawi and 10 in Hilo. Before that she was the pastry chef for Kukio Golf and Beach Resort in West Hawaii.

Born in Massachusetts and raised in Maryland, Short attended culinary school. She was a pastry chef instructor for the Merchant Marines, which is where she met her husband, who is from the Big Island. They returned nearly 20 years ago.

She decided to open her own shop after leaving her job at Kukio.

Short, however, has been baking since the age of 8.

When her third-grade teacher was leaving, “she said ‘you can pick one book from this bookshelf.’ I picked ‘Cookie of the Month’ and I fell in love,” Short said. “I did pretty much every cookie in that book and they were awful. That’s when it started.”

Short, said she “really did my absolute best” during the Food Network competition.

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“I really wanted to put Hilo on the map a little bit,” she said. “We have really good food in Hilo. … There’s so much talent here (but) we always get overlooked. That’s one of the main reasons I felt like Hilo needs a little bit of love and representation.”

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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