TAMPA — Seminole Hard Rock Tampa’s pastry chef got a slice of the limelight this month.
Five-year employee Alon Gontowski competed on Food Network’s Sweet Genius TV show.
“It was a total fun, exciting experience,” he said. “What I enjoyed most was just the environment and the enthusiasm that came across from everyone.”
Gontowski competed against three other pastry chefs from across the nation on the episode, which will air on April 5 at 10 p.m. on Food Network.
The chefs were given surprise ingredients, an inspiration and a limited amount of time to create a chocolate, candy and cake dessert. Gontowski could not reveal any details of the show, but he said he enjoyed the experience.
“It was high energy and totally rock ‘n’ roll,” he said.
The winners from each round will advance for a final test, where renowned dessert chef and show host Ron Ben-Israel will crown the winning chef and award the Sweet Genius a $10,000 cash prize.
Will Gontowski take the cake? We’ll have to wait and watch. But Gontowski said he certainly brought some competitive qualities to the kitchen like his creativity and his ability to think quickly.
“I’m like a chameleon,” he said. “I adapt to whatever environment is at hand.”
The cherry on top was coming back from filming and getting showered with attention at work. From high-fives to words of encouragement, he said the support has been incredible.
“I’m an in-house celebrity,” he said. “It really lightens up your day and makes it all worth it.”
Whether Gontowski wins or not, the experience was a career highlight in his more than 20 years of pastry experience, he said. He plans on tuning in to watch the show with his wife and three children.
“My wife is my No. 1 fan,” he said.
The Johnson & Wales University alumnus’ other acclaims include receiving a silver medal in the American Culinary Federation Pastry Competition and helping achieve a Guinness World Record for the world’s largest wedding cake that weighed in at 15,032 pounds.
Earlier this month, Gontowski was also a guest host on Daytime, a partner of Southern Living magazine, and he said he wouldn’t mind doing more TV appearances in the future.
To get him on Sweet Genius, Seminole Hard Rock Tampa’s public relations manager Gina Morales reached out to Food Network.
“We need to expose our chefs,” Gontowski said. “We have a lot of talent [at the Hard Rock].”