EDGEWATER — He’s decorated cakes for luminaries like Chance the Rapper, Tom Skilling and the cast of “Empire,” but come Sunday Adam Gueldener gets a star turn of his own.
Catch the Edgewater resident as one of a dozen bakers competing on the Food Network’s “Holiday Wars,” airing at 7 p.m. Sunday.
The episode, “When the Elves Call in Sick,” will pit three teams of four confectionary artists against each other in a series of challenges, with $10,000 in prize money on the line for the winners.
The contestants were all cast individually, which made for an interesting team dynamic, according to Gueldener.
“They [the producers] set us up. It was nerve wracking. It’s like a blind date, except it’s televised,” he said. “When we got together, the first thing we did was talk about our specialty, what we’re good at” to determine division of labor.
Gueldener can sling buttercream with the best of them — not surprising considering he grew up on a dairy farm in southern Illinois — but his real talent lies in molding fondant into shapes that realistically mimic people, animals, cartoon characters and food. (Check out his Instagram page.)
He honed these skills at pastry school in St. Louis and continued mastering his craft at Alliance Bakery in Wicker Park, an education and career path he highly recommends for artistic types looking for a way to channel their creativity into a paying job.
“It’s art that can sell,” Gueldener said.
Though Gueldener typically has nerves of steel, even when working on a cake for a star like Chance — “I know how skilled I am,” he said — being on the Food Network set tested his mettle.
“I’m doing something I’m confident in but at the same time you’re trying to show your personality under high stress,” he said.
Even if he hadn’t been worn to secrecy about the outcome of the episode, Gueldener said he would be hard pressed to share details about the taping.
The pace was so frenetic, he said, he didn’t even have time to watch the other teams at work.
Gueldener will get his first look at the finished product at a viewing party he’s hosting Sunday night at Andersonville’s SoFo Tap, 4923 N. Clark St., 6:30 p.m. He’s invited family, friends, co-workers from his current gig at Edge of Sweetness bakery and any members of the public who want to share in the moment.
He admits he’s nervous about how he might be portrayed in the final edit of “augmented” reality, but Gueldener has definitely caught the TV bug.
When asked if he’d answer another call from the Food Network, Gueldener didn’t hesitate: “Oh totally, yeah.”