Lyndsy McDonald, executive pastry chef of The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, kept getting the same email from the Ritz marketing team—about applying for Food Network's Halloween baking competition—in her inbox. The first time, she ignored it. Then another email came through, then a third. Finally, McDonald decided to take a look at the details of what the competition would entail. After thinking things over, she applied. Next thing she knew, she was on a plane headed to New Orleans to compete in the channel's Halloween Baking Championship.
“I honestly don’t know if it’s hit me yet,” McDonald says of the prospect of being on a show that's broadcast to hundreds of thousands of viewers across the country. “I’m so excited for the Ritz-Carlton. I’m proud to represent them.”
McDonald, a Johnson & Wales grad who's been with the Ritz-Carlton for four years and previously owned a bakery in Lakewood Ranch, says she grew up in restaurants, so food is in her blood.
“My whole family was in the business for so long,” she says, recalling that she baked every sweet she had as a little girl from scratch.
While she's understandably resistant to sharing any details about the outcome of the competition, which has finished filming and is currently airing, McDonald credits The Ritz-Carlton for some of the skills she brings to the show.
“At the Ritz, my day is extremely fast-paced," she says. "We serve people through thick and thin, no matter what. Having had that mentality for four years, no matter what challenge they gave me, it was like ‘Okay, that’s what they give me everyday at the Ritz.’”
She admits that while she did miss being able to work in her own kitchen with her own ingredients, the competition was an incredible experience.
“I was with such talented people,” McDonald says. “There was amazing creativity and respect. But we definitely did rub on each other and talk a lot of smack.”
And for viewers who are tuning in, McDonald promises that her confections will be more awe-inspiring than scary. (Just think of the incredible gingerbread confections she creates for the Ritz-Carlton each holiday season.)
“I don’t think you’ll be scared,” she says. “It’s refreshing to share a different side of what I do. I get to represent Sarasota nationally, and that’s awesome.”