Two Long Island bakers will be featured on season four of TLC’s reality show “Next Great Baker.”
Don Donneruno, 45, of East Northport, and Meredith Gulfman, 36, of Westbury, will compete with nine other teams of other bakers from around the country to see who can create the most impressive cake creations. The first episode airs Tuesday, June 24, at 9 p.m.
Judges this season include Buddy “Cake Boss” Valastro – his first season on the show – along with permanent judges chocolatier Jacques Torres and Magnolia Bakery’s Chief Baking Officer Bobbie Lloyd. The show also includes guest judges.
Donneruno described himself as a full-time baking employee, who specializes in consultations and customer service during the week and "then the weekends, it's full-blown cake decorating," he said in an interview on the “Next Great Baker” website.
Gulfman works full-time as a one-on-one aide at an elementary school, and part-time at the bakery. She spoke lovingly of family influencers, including her grandfather, as well as a brother who had passed away. About winning, she said, "If I do it, and do the right thing, someone is going to be proud."
The two met nearly 15 years ago, when Donneruno's daughter attended Gulfman's daycare class.
This season, competitors are working in teams of two for a chance to work for Valastro at the new Carlo's Bakery at The Venetian in Las Vegas and to capture a grand prize of $100,000.
“Jacques and Bobbie are the definitions of business skill and culinary creativity. I’m thrilled to have their unique perspectives and expertise help me monitor the teams’ progress and ensure they have what it takes to successfully run a baking business, which is the end goal for all the competitors,” Valastro said, in a news release.
“This season showcases the most talented bakers we have had on the show, and the new team format promises double the skill and double the bakery drama,” he added.
Each episode features a “cake challenge,” and in a new twist, the lowest ranked teams will compete in an elimination challenge, a final competition that tests a variety of skills. The focus will be not only on cakes, but also an array of other desserts to ensure that each competitor masters flavor and creativity.
In the season premiere, the teams arrive at the Carlos Bakery facility in New Jersey and must immediately work on a dessert that represents their hometown in just 45 minutes. Once the judges have a taste of their dessert style, Buddy gives the teams a challenge to create New York City-inspired cakes after a few field trips around the city. With their dreams on the line, the teams must prove they have the skills and creative intuition to follow in their culinary idols’ footsteps and open a bakery of their own.
Upcoming episodes include a candy-themed challenge judged by Dylan’s Candy Bar owner, Dylan Lauren; a wedding cake extravaganza, judged by Sean and Catherine Lowe from ABC’s “The Bachelor”; a life-sized cake recreation of TLC’s Theresa Caputo judged by the “Long Island Medium”; a spooky, sweet challenge judged by “Freddie Krueger” actor Robert Englund; a trip to Rachael Ray’s talk show for an audience-judged challenge; and many more cake competitions that push the boundaries and test the limits of bakery perfection.
The teams are:
- Roxanne Bodell and Kaiulani Delgado, aunt and niece team from Salt Lake City, UT
- Julie Voudrie and Danielle Voudrie, a mother/daughter duo from Gray, TN
- Fred Isla and Barry Ackerman, bakery buddies and former colleagues from Las Vegas, NV
- David Duran and Elaine Duran, husband and wife from Kissimmee, FL
- Don Donneruno and Meredith Gulfman, co-workers from Long Island, NY
- Brandy Smith and Ginger Soave, a bakery student and teacher team from Virginia Beach, VA
- Bethany Berend and Jennifer Livermore, best friends from Tomball, TX
- Al Watson and Lia Weber, co-workers from St. Louis, MO
- Manny Agigian and Al DiBartolo, friends and co-workers from Woolwich, NJ
- Jose Barajas and Aimee Anderson, an unconventional friend duo from Chula Vista, CA