Baker Dave brings personal flair to Food Network competition

Baker Dave made cookies representing his family’s Christmas traditions in the show’s first round.

Dave Okapal, Temple University's pastry chef known fondly as "Baker Dave," competed on an episode of the Food Network's "Christmas Cookie Challenge" that aired last night. | NICKEE PLAKSEN / FILE PHOTO

Temple University’s pastry chef Dave Okapal, known as “Baker Dave,” competed on an episode of Food Network’s “Christmas Cookie Challenge” that aired last night.

While Okapal didn’t win the competition, which was hosted by former NFL player Eddie Jackson, he said he feels accomplished to have participated.

“I didn’t win, obviously, but I think I did people proud,” Okapal said. “I made some decent cookies, and I entertained.”

In the first round, Okapal went up against four other bakers with backgrounds ranging from nail artist to competitive gingerbread house maker. The contestants had 90 minutes to make two different sets of cookies on a stick.

The first set’s theme was a “kid’s cookie” and the other was an “adult cookie,” meant to represent the best parts of Christmas for children and adults.

His “kid’s cookie” design was a sloppily-wrapped Christmas present, while his “adult cookie” was adult pajama pants, based off an annual Okapal family tradition of wearing pajamas on Christmas. The episode featured photos of Okapal’s family dressed up.

Okapal said he made cookie designs that represented something personal to him and his family.

Blogger Ree Drummond, “Cake Wars” contestant-turned-judge Dan Langan, and chef and television personality Aarti Sequeira judged the competition. They praised Okapal for his marks of creativity and uniqueness, as well as the balance of flavor in his cookies, but decided not to advance him to the second round.

But Okapal didn’t feel that upset about it — he said the overall experience was “pretty fantastic,” and he feels he walked away with four new pastry-baking friends.

He added he felt he was true to himself on the show.

“I didn’t just go there and try to make what might be an easy cookie that would look nice and will be easier for people to understand,” Okapal said. “I tried to tell my story, I made it personal. I did what was important to me and so I feel good about that.”

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