Pacific Beach baker shows his skills on Hulu’s ‘Baker’s Dozen’
As a kid growing up in San Jose, Justin Gaspar was always drawn to the kitchen — but not for the reasons one might think.
“I’ve been baking my whole life,” he said during an interview. “It really started because I was such a picky eater as a kid. I had the most bland sense of taste. I didn’t want to eat anything, but then when it came to cookies and cakes, I was all about it.”
Gaspar’s sweet tooth led him to experiment with other baked goods.
“I got into breads, and I just realized how much flavor you could pack into a bread or a pastry just simply by altering the different formulas and techniques that you use,” he said. “And my parents, my grandparents, really gave me a platform to explore that interest of mine and I never looked back.”
That freedom to follow his passion has earned Gaspar a spot on “Baker’s Dozen,” a new cooking competition show that recently premiered on Hulu.
The show is co-hosted by TV personality Tamera Mowry-Housley and former White House executive pastry chef Bill Yosses. It was filmed earlier this spring at a ranch north of Los Angeles — a picturesque setup similar to “The Great British Baking Show.”
The concept of the show pits home bakers against professional bakers in a kitchen showdown that aims to determine whether anyone can be a great baker. Each episode features 13 different bakers (hence the title, “Baker’s Dozen”) competing in a series of baking challenges.
Gaspar is competing as a professional.
In 2014, after graduating high school, Gaspar enrolled at the International Culinary Center to study baking and pastry. He later found himself working through kitchens in the Bay Area, honing his craft. Most of his training, he said, came from his time as a pastry cook at Manresa Bread in Los Gatos.
Gaspar ended up in San Diego because his girlfriend (now wife) Bianca Argao graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University and the two decided to settle here.
Now Gaspar is the head baker at Hommage Bakehouse, a wholesale bakery that’s run out of La Clochette Du Coin cafe in Pacific Beach.
Gaspar said a casting director reached out to him while he and the Hommage team were preparing to open at the end of 2020.
“I was interested because I had never thought I’d do a baking competition of any kind,” he said. “So when the opportunity arose, I went through a bunch of different interview processes and then I got a call a few months back like, ‘Hey, we’d love to have you on the show.’”
Gaspar’s specialty, he says, is the plain butter croissant.
“I always say that baking is more of a science and cooking is more of an art form. There’s always the debate between art and craft, but baking is very chemistry-based and very exact,” Gaspar said.
“I’m excited to see the show come out with the concept that it has: putting home bakers and professionals in the same space. I think it’s important to showcase how talented some home bakers can be and how they compare against professionals because all of us in the industry started as home cooks or home bakers.”
All eight episodes of “Baker’s Dozen” are available to stream. Gaspar said he hopes viewers will come away with a good reflection of what they’re doing at Hommage Bakehouse. And he hopes to inspire other chefs, home-based or not.
Featured in episode eight, Gaspar went through three baking challenges — the first creating a mini, three-tiered wedding cake with buttercream roses as a tribute to his wife. In round two, he made his well-known ube bibingka milk buns, which received high praise from the judges and won the round.
In round three, Gaspar made a matcha shiitake mushroom tiramisu and went on to win his episode.
“Home bakers and professionals alike — as long as you have a passion for it, anyone can bake,” he said. “Baking is definitely a skill that you grow into and you can have a talent for it, but really, as long as you have the perseverance to understand the science behind it, the techniques and history, you can grow into becoming a really great baker.”
To try Gaspar’s croissant, among other tasty treats, visit Hommage Bakehouse at 4680 Cass St. in Pacific Beach. You can watch “Baker’s Dozen” on hulu.com.