Baking challenge shows have become the rage with ratings high for shows like The Food Network’s Baking Championship franchise, Netflix’ The Great British Bake Off and even repeats of Cake Wars. HBO Max has entered the ring with its offer of Baketopia, a highly addictive series hosted by YouTuber Rosanna Pansino in half hour, deliciously bingeable half hour episodes.
Baketopia is wildly different from its competition. The set is a cross between Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and Pee Wee’s Playhouse and the challenges are highly creative – HBO Max once more pushing the envelope and raising the bar. An early hero to emerge from the series is one of Ritz Carlton’s youngest pastry leads, Gregory Matthew Rodriguez.
Despite setting a pan on fire, he proved himself worthy of Baketopia with his colorful offerings of a cocktail inspired cupcake and his grand finale, a dreamy, hand-sculpted tropical jelly cake. In addition to his skill and artful approach, he immediately charmed the camera as it followed him and his shopping cart as he filled up for his debut challenge. Although he looks too young to be allowed near an open flame, his ability and years of experience have earned him a prestigious place in the land of Baketopia.
Girl…you put the FIERCE in baking. Have you always been fierce? What kind of kid were you?
FIERCE! That is an understatement, ha ha! I put the uniqueness, nerve, and talent in my baking. As a kid, I was fun, happy, bubbly, outgoing, and loud. Well, still to this very day I am LOUD in every way possible!
What is your coming out story?
I’ve spoken about this story very rarely. I am blessed and fortunate to have such a loving and supporting family. I know friends and people in my community who aren’t as fortunate as I am. Each individual wants to be love and accepted, but some never get to have that. I was always taught growing up to be kind and forever loving, to help whenever someone is in need. I came out in high school in my sophomore year going into junior year. Before that, I was severely bullied throughout my school life for being fragile, tiny, skinny, having all female friends, and having a feminine voice. My mom and I used to watch TV shows together, and this one show called The Carrie Diaries had a main character with a gay best friend who was in denial of his sexuality – this was the moment where I felt vulnerable and most sure of myself. A week after that one episode, I asked my mother “would you still love me if I was…you know, gay?” My mother didn’t take it so easily. As a mother figure, they hope for marriage and grandchildren from their first born (me). But time went on and my mother loved me for who I am, my father accepted me right off the bat and just wants me to be loved and to be careful.
When did you first get the baking bug?
I was 5 years old baking out of a box with my grandma.
What was the first professional baking item you made?
The first professional baking item I made was a cherry ice cream and pistachio cake at a winery I used to work at in 2017. It was so delicious and full of flavor!
What is your creative process when coming up with a new baking design?
My creative process comes from my feelings (what makes me happy), what people eat the most, and what season it is. I get a lot of help from friends and family, mainly my mother and my best friend Tiffany. They are my peas in a pod and we three think similarly, so it’s a huge help and inspiration.
What has been the biggest challenge for you to make?
The biggest challenge was that jelly cake I made on the show! That was definitely a challenge for me.
What is the best thing you make that you would impress a date with?
Believe it or not, I have been single and haven’t made a guy anything yet! But if I had to choose, hand made macarons or bon bons would do the trick.
How did you get involved with Baketopia? What was the audition process like?
I was reached out to by a producer through Instagram and the audition process was fairly simple and easy to follow, go through interviews and zoom meetings and really hope for the best.
Did you have any nerves on filming for national TV?
Did you not see me burn a pan on TV!!! I was a nervous wreck, I couldn’t stop shaking, and was struggling with my gelatin!
What was the filming experience like – where did you film? How long did it take?
I will never forget it, we filmed in Los Angeles and took about a week of filming and setting up.
What was your strategy going in for Baketopia?
It was definitely taste and texture (I know my palette very well), and flavors are the best way to go!
Where do you keep your Winner’s Trophy?
The Winner’s Trophy is literally sitting on my desk in my room.
Have your DMs blown up since appearing on the show?
Yes! I am booked out through July!
How did you get the job at the Ritz Carlton at such a young age?
I was referred by a current colleague named Monica who worked at the Ritz and I’ve proven myself ever since, I thank her every day for giving me that open door.
You just worked Easter, how many desserts did you have to make?
We made about 200, 40 of each dessert and four entremets/tarts. I love big holidays that have buffet desserts, you can become more creative and expressive!
How are you able to be creative in your designs and recipes while working for a giant corporation like the Ritz?
I am thankful to be at a location that gives me the opportunity to be expressive to make beautiful and memorable desserts.
Do you love desert living?
Desert living is definitely going to take some getting used to.
What’s next for you?
That is something my family and friends, new followers, and supporters will have to keep up with! There is so much happening on the books that I cannot share just yet, but hopefully you all can keep a look out!
You can follow Gregory on Instagram @casadeorodulce
Photos Courtesy of HBO max
Last modified: April 15, 2021