A Filipina American pastry chef and entrepreneur from Southern California won a recent episode of Food Network’s “Chopped Sweets.”
Ginger Lim-Dimapasok, the owner of ube-centric bakery Café 86, triumphed during the Monday, March 16 episode of “Chopped Sweets” entitled “Carnival Crunch Time.”
“Chopped Sweets,” a spinoff of the network’s popular show “Chopped,” features four bold pastry artists who compete for the $10,000 prize.
“The win could truly bring a lot of exposure to the cafe because this reached such a broad audience — not just nationwide, but worldwide,” Lim-Dimapasok told the Asian Journal in an interview.
Since the episode was aired, she has been receiving dozens of messages from individuals around the world.
She added, “To be honest, the messages I receive from around the world thanking me for giving them some sort of ray of light, even for that one day, meant so much more to me than anything else.”
Lim-Dimapasok was scouted for the show last summer and went through a series of interviews and auditions. By October, she was flown out to Food Network’s studios in New York to film the carnival-themed episode, which she said was “exciting and scary all at the same time.” Leading up to the episode’s release, she kept her TV appearance under wraps.
“Whatever you see on TV, that is just a part of how truly scary and exhilarating the entire process is. For me, being someone who has watched Food Network most of my life and watched these shows and at some point fantasized about what it would be like to be on them, it was so surreal to be in the studios actually competing. It was literally like a dream come true,” she said.
Originally from Manila, Lim-Dimapasok grew up in a family that ran a turo turo restaurant and bakeshop and was inspired by female chefs from Doreen Fernandez to Martha Stewart.
She migrated to Southern California and was a stay-at-home mom until she started Café 86 with her husband James in Chino Hills, California in 2014. To date, the couple has stores in Pasadena, Artesia, San Diego and Las Vegas and is famous for having over 50 desserts and drinks featuring ube.
“I came into the ‘Chopped Sweets’ competition knowing one thing for sure: I was going to cook what I love — Filipino food — and I was going to cook from the heart. I had confidence that my knowledge and love of Filipino food and especially my Kapampangan roots would definitely help me deal with whatever ingredients they threw at me,” Lim-Dimapasok said.
In her interviews during the episode, she proudly boasted her Filipina heritage and her competitive spirit.
During the first round of the episode, the basket items were churro corn dogs, watermelon slices, cream soda and corn on the cob. Inspired by Filipino desserts with corn, Lim-Dimapasok created a corn and cheese egg roll with cream soda and watermelon caramel.
Though her first batch of egg rolls burned, she was able to quickly frying more for the judges to taste. Judge Brandi Milloy, who is also Fil-Am, said the egg roll had a “beautiful texture,” while Waylynn Lucas said it was the “perfect combination of sweet and savory.”
The second round presented contestants with a grilled pineapple sundae, chewy fruit squares, kiwi and cherry pickles.
The Pinay chef recalled this being the biggest challenge during the competition because she initially envisioned a fruit salad dessert but ended up concocting fruit nachos with pickle-fruit pico de gallo “inspired by the Mexican fruit carts of Los Angeles,” she said. The nachos, which judges deemed a favorite, were topped with a swirl of pink cotton candy.
For the final round — where Lim-Dimapasok was left alongside Angela Malpedo of Bethlehem Dairy Store pastry chef in Bethlehem, PA — the surprise ingredients included unicorn popcorn, ice cream beads, rambutan and circus peanuts. Lim-Dimapasok, sharing that her mother had a rambutan farm back in the Philippines, channeled the famous Filipino summer treat, halo halo, using coconut rambutan and lime sorbet.
When the time was up, judges presented the dish that would be eliminated and revealed Lim-Dimapasok’s win, which she dedicated to her two children.
“I was in tears when they announced me as the winner because this was truly a dream come true. All I could think of was my family who has inspired me to do what I love to do and that is feed people,” she said. “Being able to utilize my mom’s favorite fruit in my winning dish was also amazing. Everything that I have become was because she and my dad believed in me and allowed me to do what I truly love.”