Meet the Eastchester Mom Who Just Won The Great American Baking Show

Tina Zaccardi loves food reality TV shows almost as much as baking.

Update 12/26: Westchester Magazine is thrilled to say that since this interview, Tina Zaccardi has officially been named — er, sung? — champion on Season 4 of The Great American Baking Show. Watch the moment of truth here, then check out our original article below!


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If you’re a dessert person, you should get into the personal orbit of hobbyist baker Tina Zaccardi. There may be loads of complimentary treats coming your way.

The Bronx-born, Eastchester resident who is one of ten contestants on ABC’s fourth season of The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition, bakes approximately five days a week. Since her husband and two sons can only eat so many desserts, she often gives the extras to neighbors, friends, and co-workers (she works part time in the strategic sourcing department at Fordham University).

“People are happy to get a call from me,” says Zaccardi. “It usually means there’s some croissants or eclairs coming their way.” We talked to the budding reality star about her passion for baking, the competitive food TV show experience, and other, mostly sweet, topics.    

Lemon curd and toasted meringue mini tart. Photo courtesy of Tina Zaccardi


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What are the origins of your passion for baking and do remember the first thing you baked?

Tina Zaccardi: Both my mother and grandmother frequently cooked and baked so you could say I inherited it from them. They passed down to me many recipes, including on ones for stellar Easter bread and anginetti [Italian iced lemon knot cookies]. I enjoyed the cooking/baking better than my two siblings [brothers] who liked the eating part! As for my first bake, I was 5 or 6 and home from school sick and made anginetti.


Ombre cake. Photo courtesy of Tina Zaccardi


What was the catalyst for trying out for The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition?

TZ: I have been a huge fan of the original, The Great British Baking Show, having started watching it five years ago. It stood out from other food competition shows because of the structure — the contestants were given realistic times to make something. Also the camaraderie seemed legit.

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The contestants supported each other when down and cheered for other’s successes. My experience on the American version of the show confirmed what I saw; I’ll be friends with a lot of my fellow contestants for rest of my life.


What does applying for the show entail?

TZ: It was quite a process which began in early May and lasted until late June, but worth it! There was an initial 75 question application form plus 2 to 3-minute video you make about yourself. Then a skype with producers 2 days later. I had to send in pics of baked items and more videos, and there was then a tasting interview where you had to bring 3 examples of your baking (I brought raspberry eclairs, a loaf of bread, and espresso mousse cake).

A few days later I was flown to Los Angeles for a live baking interview where I baked a cake while producers asked me questions. It was nerve-wracking to a degree, but everyone made me feel comfortable and it was more fun than anything negative.


Checkerboard cookies. Photo courtesy of Tina Zaccardi

Is judge Paul Hollywood as dashing and good looking as he thinks?

TZ: Ha! He is of course. At first I was nervous but Paul and Sherry [Yard] gave great critiques that were spot-on and fair. That’s all you can ask of the judges.


Any advice for anyone wishing to try out for a food reality show?

TZ: Don’t simply think you want to do, actually do it. Don’t question yourself. Be persistent and keep applying. I applied to season’s 2 and 3 of The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition and didn’t get on, as well as the Christmas Cookie Challenge on Food Network.


Any baking heroes?

TZ: Julia Child. She was matter of fact and made it okay to fail. She taught never to make an excuse if something didn’t come out right. I also like Nick Malgieri — he as many go-to recipes.


Danish pastry with roasted veggies and goat cheese. Photo courtesy of Tina Zaccardi

Most everyone makes a batch of cookies at some point in their life. Any tips?

TZ: Know your oven, does it run hot or cold and are there any hot spots? Also use Silpat or other silicon liner. The cookies will come right off and never stick.


What are your baking aspirations?

TZ: I’d love to bake for a wider audience and get paid for it, but not a brick and mortar place. Maybe recipe development for a company.


Season 4 of The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition premieres with slices of cake, and sweet and savory pastries, Thursday, December 6 at 9-11 p.m. EST, on The ABC Television Network. 

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