Cakes By Karl

By Olivia Frenkel

“ 3… 2… 1… hands up! Bloody good job, bakers!” Bay Area pastry chef, Karl Fong, presented the judges with a deliciously rich, devil’s food cake with a complementary blood orange curd and dark chocolate buttercream. The cake’s presentation was as unpleasing to the eye as it was pleasing to the tongue. Fondant eyes bulged and blood orange flesh oozed from the crevices of the zombie heart shaped cake. The judges loved it. Fong out-scared and out-baked seven other contestants and was crowned the season 5 winner of Food Network’s Halloween Baking Champion, receiving the grand prize of $25,000.

Karl Fong is a long-time Bay Area resident who grew up with an artistic mind. “I’ve been an artist all my life. Even throughout highschool I did a lot of art classes and advanced art courses,” said Fong. During his childhood, he recalls his time in the kitchen, saying “I would make boxed brownies, cakes, and cookies, which now I consider cheating, but I was still in the kitchen and learning new skills.” As these skills grew, he realized that he could meld these two passions and pursue a career as a pastry chef.

Fong began his training at the Contra Costa College in a two and a half year program where his teacher proved to be an incredibly supportive figure. “I would ask him a ton of questions and I think that was the key early on. His intent was for the student to go up and ask him about things like procedures and bake times.”

Through Contra Costa College, Fong was sent to different internships where he received most of his class credits. He worked in restaurants and even a pastry shop in Berkeley, called Masse’s Pastries. In this hands on work, he learned more about the pressures of being in the kitchen while gaining more practical skills. “I was very fortunate to have chefs that were willing to share the knowledge that they had. I was never asked to do things like peel a bunch of apples all day, they were open to teaching me things and fixing mistakes. Afterwards, he attended the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco where he learned “the science and the why behind everything. This is huge because once you know the why, you can do so much.”

With this new knowledge and experience, Fong went on to work for B44 Catalan Bistro in the Financial District of San Francisco where his boss encouraged him to temporarily move to Spain to gain even further knowledge about pastries.

Fong fell deeply in love with Spain, but came back to work for B44 whose owners were in the process of opening a fine dining restaurant called Les Amis. He was asked to fill the new position as the executive pastry chef while still maintaining the job at B44. Though Les Amis closed after two and a half years, Fong is grateful for the creative opportunities that fine dining has offered him. “This job let me really dive into the details, textures, and temperatures of desserts.”