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Northeastern graduate lands second Food Network competition

Meredith Willse
York Dispatch

A 2017 Northeastern High School graduate is putting his baking skills to the test again on national TV through the Food Network’s "Holiday Wars." 

Hunter Roof, 23, tried his hand last year as a sugar artist during his first appearance on TV in the network's "Halloween Wars." Unfortunately, his team lost early on in the competition, but the network called him up and asked if he wanted to compete again. 

He was ready for his redemption. 

“To be this young and have done two Food Network competitions … it’s a big deal for me personally,” he said adding these are some of the most challenging competitions someone in his industry can do.

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Roof has known since he was 3 years old that his life was going to be about baking. At 12, he started cake decorating and competing in competitions, and he took off from there.

“Pretty much my entire, entire life, I’ve known that being a pastry chef is what I wanted to do,” he said.   

The Northeastern community supported his talents during his whole school career. If a teacher or administration member needed a cake, they would go to Roof. He continues that today, making wedding cakes, one of his specialties, for his close friends who are getting married. 

Anytime he did anything dessert related, the community cheered him on. 

“I thank Northeastern for a lot of the confidence that I have,” he said, explaining they gave him a strong foundation. 

And they still support him today. 

Hunter Roof poses for a photo with Food Network for his second TV appearance. Food Network

Northeastern York School District posted Sunday, the day the show premiered, on Facebook that Roof was going to be on TV again. The post hit 140 likes or loves on Tuesday.  

Roof said even though he lives over two hours away from York, in Scranton, he still feels their support. He gets messages from friends and family showing their support. 

That support is also what powers him through the competitions. 

Roof graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 2019. Today he is a pastry supervisor at a Pocono Mountains resort. 

Roof loves baking, but he also enjoys finishing desserts. He likes changing elements into something different and ensuring the final product is a show stopper.

He said the cake has to taste good, but it has to look good, too. 

As a sugar artist, Roof gets to do that with his skill at transforming sugar and chocolate, such as making sugar sculptures or blown sugar. The materials, like sugar and chocolate, which are hard to work with, follow certain rules. 

“If one thing is wrong, it all kind of crumbles,” he said. 

Hunter Roof poses with a cake he made. At 23, he has now competed in two TV-based baking competitions on the Food Network. Hunter Roof photo.

But under high-pressure situations, Roof learns new techniques, which can be difficult but also helps strengthen his passion for his craft. 

The first episode of "Holiday Wars" aired Sunday, which was the qualifying round. He said there are nine teams and three preliminary rounds. The teams are broken down into three episodes. His team’s first competition is this Sunday. 

Episodes are at 9 p.m. every Sunday until Dec. 11. 

Roof couldn’t reveal too much of what happens in the episodes, but he said he entered the show working with two women he never met before and left with a tight-knit friendship.

Roof, on team Fab-Yule-us, is teamed up with Kim Mitchell, who hails from Virginia, and Monique Rathbun, who owns Bibby’s Cakes in Texas. Roof said they are “absolutely amazing bakers and cake sculptors.”

The trio were strangers until shortly before they started competing. 

“And they are probably two of my closest friends and colleagues that I have,” he said.

Roof added their incredible bond formed because the show helped the team make amazing pieces. He said the team was so in sync, they barely had to talk to each other because they knew what their teammates were doing.

He enjoys competing in these competitions, which he compares to marathons, but the work is worth it.

The bakers are making cakes that weigh hundreds of pounds and are a few feet tall while also being recorded by TV crews. 

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“It is hard,” he said, adding the competition is stressful and intense. “But ultimately, it is one of the most rewarding experiences that I think I ever had.”

He said no matter if he wins or loses, the experience he gained from being on the show is a win. That is also why he keeps competing. He likes to push himself further, improving from the previous day and sharing his talents with the world. 

Roof plans to keep participating in these kinds of competitions in the future, but the rest of his life is open to any opportunities that come his way. 

— Reach Meredith Willse at mwillse@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @MeredithWillse.

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