On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
Brother Andrew Corriente is a friar studying for the priesthood at Catholic University who won this year’s holiday edition of The Great American Baking Show with chocolate cookies with lime cream and blackberry jam, sponge cakes with fresh cream and fruits, and a puff pastry.
We hear how Brother Andrew wowed the judges with the taste and presentation of some very complicated confections, but also how baking became a spiritual endeavor for this local friar, who wakes before dawn to spend time in the kitchen before morning prayers.
Produced by Lauren Markoe
- Brother Andrew Corriente Franciscan friar and winner of The Great American Baking Show, Holiday Edition; @CatholicUniv
Cooking With Kojo: Brother Andrew's Sunshine Tart
Brother Andrew Corriente is a Franciscan friar studying at Catholic University who recently won the holiday edition of The Great American Baking Show.
Produced by Monna Kashfi, Victoria Chamberlin, Tyrone Turner, and Ben Privot
Brother Andrew's Sunshine Tart
10 oz. superfine sugar
¼ tsp kosher salt
2.5 oz. cornstarch
5 oz. egg yolks
3.5 oz. orange juice and zest of (about 2 oranges)
4 oz lemon juice and zest (About four lemons)
16 oz. water
- Whisk dry ingredients in a medium sauce pan.
- Combine the rest of the ingredients in the saucepan.
- Cook on medium heat whisking slowly and constantly until thick and a few bubbles pop.
- Once it starts to bubble, whisk faster making sure to get all the lumps out and cook for two minutes.
- Strain through a sieve onto a blind baked crust.
- Cool at room temperature for about an hour.
- Transfer to the fridge and let chill for about four hours.
SASHA-ANN SIMONSWelcome back. I'm Sasha-Ann Simons in for Kojo Nnamdi, later in the hour, when solar panels and historic preservation clash. But first, for years few besides his fellow friars new about Brother Andrew's talent for baking, but now thanks to his win earlier this month The Great American Baking Show, Brother Andrew is a culinary celebrity. He manages to fit his baking into a busy schedule of prayers, chores, serving the poor and studying for the priesthood at Catholic University.
SASHA-ANN SIMONSBut baking is not how he takes a break from his life, to Brother Andrew it's part of his spiritual formation. Joining us to talk about baking for himself, for others and for a television audience of millions is Brother Andrew Corriente. He is a Franciscan brother and the latest winner of The Great American Baking Show. Welcome to the show, Brother Andrew.
BROTHER ANDREW CORRIENTEThank you, Sasha, for having me.
SIMONSYou're chuckling because I said celebrity, aren't you?
CORRIENTEYeah, that's so weird. (laugh)
SIMONSYou can join us too. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Now we're going to start at what has to be your proudest moment as an amateur baker. Here is a clip from the final episode of The Great American Baking Show's Holiday Edition, which aired on ABC earlier this month.
EMMA BUNTONThe winner of The Great American Baking Show Holiday Edition is Brother Andrew. (applause) You are the winner.
CORRIENTEThis is the biggest thing that's happened, I mean, I'm in shock right now. I don't even know what I'm holding right now. It's so incredible to share this moment with my mom, my dad and my sister. They never expected this. I never expected this. This is such a beautiful moment in our family right now.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERBrother Andrew deserved to win The Great American Baking Show because he was the best. And actually he was the most passionate.
CORRIENTEThanks, Sherry. And it's been such a pleasure to know you.
SHERRY YARDBrother Andrew deserved to win because we watched him grow week after week. He learned with each challenge and that's what baking is all about, experience.
SIMONSI watched you. You were cringing through that. And I also counted. That was actually eight seconds, what I imagine would be the longest eight seconds for you. What was going through your head during that very long pause before you were declared the winner.
CORRIENTEThe pause was much much longer actually.
SIMONSThe dramatic effect.
CORRIENTEYeah, because they have the get the shots of everyone's tense reaction, right?
CORRIENTEYou know, actually I kind of zoned out, because I was --we were filming for like, oh my goodness, 12 plus hours and it was late at night. And I'm just like, "Okay, this is like the longest pause of my life." Yeah, and it's like as soon as like I started to relax they announced my name and I just -- I completely blacked out.
SIMONSNow you describe your win as a wonderful memory for your family.
SIMONSTell us, who was there with you?
CORRIENTEMy mom and my dad and my sister flew out to London to come and visit me. Yeah.
SIMONSOh, wow. That's awesome.
SIMONSJust for the finale?
CORRIENTEJust for the finale, yeah, yeah. I mean, their son is in a national baking competition so how often does that happen, right?
SIMONSOf course. So bring us back, at what point in life did you actually start baking?
CORRIENTEWhen I became a friar actually. Yeah, I've always always loved food. I would have The Food Network on the background. I actually worked at a talent agency and worked with a lot of celebrity chefs. But I never cooked anything. I think before becoming a friar I baked like less than five things. Maybe I tried doing cookies once. I did a cheesecake once, but then I never really did anything with it. And it wasn't until I became a friar that I was like, "Why don't I just cook something?"
SIMONSSo it can't just be a fluke. You can't make it sound like that. How did you get good at it because you're good? Like give us the goods. Tell us.
CORRIENTEYou know, why? Because I made a lot of mistakes and I just kept going. So like seven years ago I just fell in love with baking. I fell in love with the science, flavor composition, technique, learning about macaronage and galletes and entremets. It was just so exciting for me, because I've always loved sweets. I love food. And I wanted to practice and I wanted to grow. And so I mean, one day like my custard wouldn't set, but that didn't stop me. I went back and looked at my notes. Saw what I did wrong and then tried again. And so I just kept repeating over and over again.
SIMONSYou say that you usually don't back in your habit or the long brown rob that distinguishes you as a member of a religious order, but you wore it while baking on the show, why?
CORRIENTEExactly. I wanted that clear connection between my baking and my Franciscan spirituality to me made known to everybody else because, again, like baking for me is a form of prayer and I wanted that to be obvious to everyone. I do bake in my habit, though, at home sometimes.
SIMONSOh, you do?
CORRIENTEIf I do that all the time then I just have to wash it all the time too, you know.
SIMONSOh, right, because it gets messy.
CORRIENTEOh, yeah. There's lots of chocolate. There's lots of flour. Sometimes like -- I tried doing it a few times and I would show up to meditation with chocolate stains on my habit or like flour still there or cinnamon butter.
SIMONSI guess there are more embarrassing things, though, right?
SIMONSBut The Great American Baking Show, you know, picturing this film set recorded under bright lights, a tent full of ovens. Wasn't it hot?
CORRIENTEYeah. It was extremely hot. For the semi-finals, it was so hot they gave us frozen water bottles to cool ourselves down, and it was just -- it was very very uncomfortable. But, you know, you just have to go with it.
SIMONSI want to jump to the phone lines. We have Rosalie from Gaithersburg. She's on the line. Hi, Rosalie.
ROSALIEHi. You know, in the semi-final I think it was, like your canapé was a (word?) and others had very, you know, innovative spices they used and all. In the finale you were last in the technical, middle in the first one. I wonder how you feel about the woman judge saying, you know, you won because you learned so much as opposed to being the best baker.
SIMONSWhat's your response to that?
CORRIENTEYou know, what you guys don't see is like the amount of feedback that judges have with us. So whenever they would tell me something that I did wrong or something like that, I would incorporate it into the next challenge sort of thing. And then consistently try to improve in each and every round sort of thing too. And when it comes to the finale I think they definitely consider how your performance was in all three rounds of just the finale because who wins each episode is just considered in each standard episode. So, yeah.
SIMONSBrother Andrew, you describe baking as Eucharistic. Now for those who aren't familiar, what's the Eucharist and how does it relate to your baking?
CORRIENTEOkay. Well, we believe the Eucharist is the body of Christ. The most way of putting it is Christ dying on the cross for us giving himself completely full body, mind and spirit sort of thing. And for me baking is me giving myself away to the people I love. Me investing myself in this cookie or this pie sort of thing taking the time out of my day and putting a lot of heart and energy into it. So whenever I bake it's sort of like as God gave -- Jesus gave himself to us I'm giving myself to my community and my loved ones.
SIMONSYou also say baking helps you practice virtues. Which virtues?
CORRIENTEOh, yeah, patience for sure.
CORRIENTEPatience and humility. You know, you get like -- you could do a mousse right the first like the first time. And then the next three or four times it all falls apart sort of thing. So you really just have to keep being persistent.
SIMONSYeah. I was going to say and how do you handle that when it falls apart? Is it just kind of like, pick it up, try it again?
CORRIENTEExactly. You know, if you put a label to it like, I'm a terrible baker. I should just give up. That's just going to slow you down. Just stop. Keep going. And to just keep persevering because, I mean, I love what I do. And so if you love what you do you don't stop.
SIMONSAnd even thinking back to what the caller just said, obviously, that's what was showing through throughout the competition and what ultimately put you right to the top.
SIMONSYou grew up in California. So tell us a bit about your childhood and were you a religious kid? I'm assuming yes, maybe not.
CORRIENTEYou know, not really actually.
CORRIENTEYeah, I know. I grew up nominally Catholic. So we just went to church, because it was the thing to do. But it wasn't until I went to NYU actually, and I went on a retreat where I met these other Catholics, who were just really genuine, authentic, sincere. And it started my own journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance basically. And so I connected that love that I felt in that retreat to the Catholic Church. And then the more I invested myself in my faith, the more I felt more fulfilled and peaceful.
SIMONSSelf-acceptance. Tell us more about that journey. What were you dealing with?
CORRIENTEWell, you know like it's just hard in college, you know, because you're still like understanding who you are, what you like. And so you get lost like, should I like this band? Should I go to like this movie? You know, you just want to find your voice. You know what I'm saying?
CORRIENTEAnd so for me it's like just about owning your own voice, what you like, what you don't like sort of thing, and just being okay with that.
SIMONSYou had a career before you joined the Franciscan order. What did you do?
CORRIENTEI worked at a talent agency for about three years in Los Angeles.
CORRIENTEYeah, yeah, yeah.
CORRIENTEYeah, entertainment. Yeah.
CORRIENTERight. And now look at me.
SIMONSLook at you now.
CORRIENTEI know. My buddies like make a joke about it. They're like, you left the entertainment industry to join like these friars and now you're back right into it.
SIMONSBut you found a way to mix both.
CORRIENTERight. Yeah, I mean, you know.
SIMONSRight, right, right. Now is it true that well before you showed any interest in baking that you worked at Georgetown Cupcakes?
CORRIENTEYes. You know, I actually worked as a catering manager there. So I never baked any of the cupcakes. I was just taking orders and managing the employees. But I was like I feel like I gained 10 pounds or 15 pounds working there, because I just had all the cupcakes I could ever eat in my life, you know. Yeah.
SIMONSTell us about your religious order, the Capuchin Franciscans.
CORRIENTEYes. So we're based off of Saint Francis, who was alive around the 1200s. And we are one of the three main branches of the Franciscans, and basically our lives our prayer, service to the poor and living in fraternity as well. So right now I'm also in study. So I'll be over at Catholic University studying theology as well too.
SIMONSExcellent. Now so that's what you're studying at Catholic University, correct. Now when will you be ordained and how will your life change after that?
CORRIENTEFirst step would be, I would be ordained a deacon around hopefully June 2021, and then a year later I will be ordained a priest.
SIMONSSo there's still quite the process left to go.
CORRIENTEYeah. There's a little process. Yeah, yeah. It's a whole thing. And I don't know how my life will change. I'm happy with just being a parish priest. I'm happy going on missions, but we'll see how it turns out. My life has been a zigzag course so far. So I'm open to whatever.
SIMONSNow Brother Andrew let's get back to The Great American Baking Show for a minute. How did you wind up in the competition in the first place?
CORRIENTEWell, I'm a huge fan of the British version. I watch like all the seasons.
SIMONSWhat is it about the British version?
CORRIENTEYou know, I don't--
SIMONSI hear everyone say that.
CORRIENTEIt's the best (unintelligible). Well, it's just like -- well, I love baking obviously and cooking, but it's just like this really quant nice show where to get to learn about baking. And you get to watch people trying to, you know, like babka, you know. So I just always fell in love with that. And then I found out there was an American version. So I sort of like -- I applied about two years ago. And they gave me a call and left a voicemail. And then I called them back and left a voicemail. And I haven't heard back. And so I just forgot about it. I'm like, okay, I'll just give it up. The following year they called me. They found like my application in the archives and said like, would you like to apply again?
CORRIENTEI know. Yeah, yeah. And I completely gave up on the show, and like, okay.
SIMONSIf you're anything like me I would have thought that first voicemail was fake.
SIMONSI would have been like, oh sure. You're from The Great American Baking Show.
CORRIENTEPlease get over here, but yeah, then actually I couldn't do it that past -- that year because I was busy. And so the following year, this past May they called me again. And I started the application process. It was a whole long thing.
SIMONSAnd the rest is history.
CORRIENTEThe rest is history.
SIMONSLet's take a quick call here. We have Karen on the line. She's in Chevy Chase. Hi, Karen.
KARENHi. I'm so excited to talk to you. I was the Montgomery County Baker of the Year in 2018.
KARENYes. And so I just wanted to know -- I kind of challenge myself to make like difficult things. I look at the 15 most difficult things to bake and I made those. This year I'm making breads of the world. What things do you challenge yourself to do or accomplish?
SIMONSGood question, Karen.
CORRIENTEYeah. You know, actually anything French patisserie, mille-feuille, macaroons and also just really really nailing technique. It was so hard for me before the show, because I didn't know if my macaroons were technically correct. You know, I could go to, you know, a nice patisserie and try it. But you don't really know unless you're being judged by a professional. So for me I just go through a lot of French culinary cookbooks and then really challenge myself with really exciting and difficult things like galletes and macaroons and mille-feuilles and (word?) cakes.
SIMONSYeah. Interesting. Now not everything went right on the show for you.
SIMONSForgive. Please forgive us.
CORRIENTEYeah, It's okay.
SIMONSWe're going to play a clip of a rather frustrating moment.
SPEAKERIt'll be find.
CORRIENTEIf it doesn't, it's okay, guys. It's okay. It's okay. It's still together.
SPEAKERIt's all right. It's all right.
CORRIENTEIt's all right. I don't mind going home. It's okay, guys.
SPEAKERNo, no, no. You're not going home. It's all right. We're fine. If it makes you feel better mines a disaster.
CORRIENTEWill you hold this together, please. Wait. Lift that up again.
SPEAKERI know that they want me to focus on finishing the bakes, but this really is the fun part for me.
SPEAKEROne minute left.
SIMONSWhat was going on there?
CORRIENTEAbsolute sheer panic.
SIMONSSo what happened? Something fell?
CORRIENTEYeah, yeah. So basically you had to assemble -- we had to assemble a cheesecake tower. And the contraption that my brother created, I didn't take the time to plan it out correctly and to understand how it worked. And so what happened was it didn't assemble correctly and my cheesecakes were falling like -- yeah, I know.
SIMONSOh, my gosh.
CORRIENTEIt was really horrible, absolutely horrible, yeah.
SIMONSBut it seems as if you and the other competitors were actually trying to help each other. Weren't you pitted against each other?
CORRIENTEYeah, yeah, well, that's the charm of the show, right. In the British version the other contestants come in and help sort of thing too. And so it's this sort of like baking comradery that we have with each other of like things go wrong in the kitchen all the time, you know. And it's great to like enter a show where that is not like this dog eat dog world mentality is not there.
SIMONSJennifer writes to us. She says, "When I was a freshman at Catholic U, I became friends with a monk who was a phenomenal chef. He would invite my roommates and I to the monastery for feast days to eat with them. They called us 'The Sisters of Our Lady of the Perpetual Dinner Guests."
CORRIENTEI love it.
SIMONSThat's cute. That's cute.
SIMONSNow a question for you. In tough moments like the one that we just listened to, do you ever pray to the patron saint of baking? I should ask, is there a patron saint of baking?
CORRIENTEThere's actually multiple patron saints of baking apparently. There's also a patron saint for butter also, which I love.
CORRIENTEI know, right. Yeah. St. Honore is one of the patron saints of baking. And the legend is that when he was appointed bishop his nanny or his babysitter was -- sorry nanny was like found out about it. And then she was so much in disbelief that she said, "It's more likely that this wooden spoon that I use to cook with will turn into a tree than him becoming a bishop." And she threw it out the window. And apparently a tree grew.
CORRIENTESo I know, so it's a really fun little Catholic, you know, thing going on there. So I do pray a lot when -- especially when things go wrong, you know.
SIMONSDid you say this already? How long total did you have to be in England to film this?
CORRIENTEWe were there for about a month.
SIMONSOh, it was just month.
SIMONSOkay. Probably felt like a really long month.
CORRIENTEAbsolutely. I mean, all I did -- I couldn't sleep. All I did was practice and think about ratios.
SIMONSWow. And you're filming this show all while being attached to a microphone and still finding time to pray.
SIMONSTell me how you juggled all that.
CORRIENTEYou know, if there was like a two minute break or a 30 second break like I would just say a quick Hail Mary or something like that. And also the tent is also really loud too. People don't understand that.
CORRIENTEYeah, because there's so many cameras, there's so many people and stuff like that. And so I could hear everything. I get really distracted easily. So I just made sure to like keep praying the entire time. They didn't show this, but like I would be like muttering like the Hail Mary over and over and over again so I'd keep focused.
SIMONSOkay. So it was filmed inside a tent. So that was your set the whole time.
CORRIENTEYes. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's the same tent as the British version too.
SIMONSVery nice. Now you have a very full schedule of studying, chores and serving the poor. When are you finding the time to bake?
CORRIENTEYou have to make time. If you love what you do, you make time for it, right. So we have meditation and prayer around 6:30 a.m. And so to be real like I wake up at 4:00 a.m. And I do some baking then. If I have a project due like a cake, I would do the cake layers in the morning. I would go to the mass and meditation. And then come back and do the frosting or I'd do the filling. Then I would assemble it and decorate it at night time. And so by the time I'm done I would just plop back into my bed and I'm done for the day.
SIMONSOh wow. You said you once offered a meal to a homeless man, who didn't want to eat it.
SIMONSAnd then that made something very clear to you about food and people. Explain that.
CORRIENTEYeah. So I was over at a soup kitchen one day and I was serving food. I hand this plate of food to the man and he looks at it with disgust. And I'm like, do you not want this food? And he's like, I don't want that food. I don't want to eat that. And I couldn't blame him, because it was like -- it didn't look appetizing, you know. It was like beans and Winnies or like spaghetti with like, you know, the can sauce sort of things too. And I'm just like, I wouldn't serve this to my loved ones.
CORRIENTESo I decided to do a ministry with the brothers and we would go over and serve the day workers who wait over at Home Depot. And I would cook them a meal with dignity and respect. And I'd want to do something a little bit more elaborate. I do big roasts and I would put out tablecloths and put out a cutting board, and like cut the roast for them and ask them, what pieces do you want, also, because like for me like everyone deserves good food. I don't care what your socioeconomic background is, like we're not in war times right now. We don't need to be serving canned food to the homeless anymore. I think everyone deserves good food.
SIMONSYou're a good man.
SIMONSBrother Andrew came in earlier this week and taught Kojo Nnamdi to make a sunshine tart. We've got some great video of that for you and the recipe at kojoshow.org. Definitely go ahead and check that out. Brother Andrew is a Franciscan brother and the latest winner of The Great American Baking Show. It was a pleasure chatting with you.
CORRIENTEOh, it was a pleasure being here. Thank you.
SIMONSThanks for joining us. The Kojo Nnamdi Show returns after a short break. Stay with us.
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