Local amateur baker makes TV appearance

Chris Luna voted in as contestant on ‘Next Great Baker’
By: Sena Christian of the Press Tribune
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Chris Luna was convinced he could do it.

He had watched plenty of reality television cooking shows, and prides himself on being adept at jumping into something new and figuring it out easily. So, he felt confident.

“I was getting married and my wife wanted to spend a crazy amount of money on a wedding cake,” Luna recalled recently, five years after his wedding. “And I was trying to convince her I could make the cake.”

That couldn’t be too hard, right?

He didn’t end up making the cake — because of time constraints and other obstacles — but, a few weeks later, he baked a wedding cake for a friend, which launched what has become a fruitful hobby and an opportunity to appear as a contestant on the TLC show “Next Great Baker,” which aired its finale in February.

Luna, 29, wasn’t the show’s winner. But he lasted through seven episodes, as the seventh out of 13 to be cut. Quite the feat, considering he was the only amateur baker in the bunch.

Luna grew up in Pollock Pines and moved to Roseville nine years ago. He, his wife and their two young children relocated to Lincoln earlier this year.

In 2011, Luna and his wife, Angie, caught the tail end of season 1 of “Next Great Baker,” a show hosted by Buddy Valastro, the star of “Cake Boss.” Contestants compete in baking and decorating challenges.

Inspired, Luna applied to appear on the show. Producers told him they were interested, so he went to New Jersey to audition. He didn’t make the top-12 cut, but producers said he would go up against two other contestants for a chance to be voted in by America.

Luna passed out fliers and used social media to urge people to vote for him — and his efforts worked. Luna was chosen to complete the baker’s dozen. He got the call while driving to work.

“I had to actually pull over because I was so excited and freaking out,” Luna said.

He yelled and screamed, and celebrated with his wife — the only person he was allowed to tell at the time. Then he left for New Jersey, where he remained from early August until October.

“It was very outside the box for me,” Luna said. “I grew up in a small town. I was a shy kid all the way through high school. Getting into sales changed me a lot to be comfortable with people in different environments. But on the first day of the competition, there were over 20 cameras all lined up, all on us.”

Filming took place at Valastro’s second bakery, which was equipped with state-of-the-art tools unfamiliar to Luna, who usually just cooks out of his kitchen. He learned something new every day. But one tip he already knew: Work fast.

“It was incredibly stressful,” Luna said. “I was going up against 12 other talented cake artists, and every single one of them had their own bakery. Except for one woman who ran a business out of her house … I knew I had some tough competition.”

Luna got cut from the show when a human sculpture he attempted to make as a cake topping failed to impress the judges. Now he’s back home in Placer County, baking cakes for friends and working at his job doing sales for an apartment advertising company.

He says he appreciates that people rooted — and voted — for him, giving him the chance to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience.