Chicago-area siblings heading to finale on Peacock series ‘Baking It’


Siblings Reema and Ravi Patel are photographed in Reema’s kitchen in Edgewater. The brother-and-sister duo are competing on Season 2 of Peacock’s “Baking It.”

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Peacock’s original competition series “Baking It” is serving up a good slice of sweet home Chicago in its second season as local siblings Reema and Ravi Patel continue their quest for the title of best baking duo and the serious dough that comes with it: a $50,000 cash prize.

The Glendale Heights brother-and-sister team have been strong contenders from the start of the season, which premiered Dec. 12, advancing past eight teams of home bakers to nab a spot in the finale showdown airing Jan.9.

The Patels’ unique creations for each episode’s themed competition have incorporated culinary cues from the Indian traditions they have grown up with, wowing the lovable quartet of “granny judges” — Anne Leonard, Harriet Robin, Norma Zager and Sherri Williams — as well as hosts Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler along the way.

The Glendale Heights brother-and-sister team of Ravi (left) and Reema Patel, have made it to the finale of Season 2 of “Baking It” on the Peacock network.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

That included creating non-traditional savory butter chicken baos in the shape of a snake and mice for Episode 2’s “Bake Your Fears” challenge in which the teams had to bake an edible representation of their greatest phobias. (Reema reveals that mice are what she fears most ever since she saw them while living with her grandparents for a year in India as a small child; and Ravi’s greatest fear is snakes).

“Baking doesn’t always have to be sweet, which I think people forget. It’s a baking competition, not a sweets competition,” Reema said in the episode, explaining their choice of a savory rather than sweet treat.  Their risk-taking move paid off. “This is exciting,” Poehler told the siblings, who also received a resounding “good job” from the panel of granny judges.

For their initial creation in Episode 1’s “Replicake” challenge (using their memory to re-create a tiered cake display that the hosts imploded), the Patels added an edible topper that was decorated with an Indian flag on one side and an American flag on the other.

“Baking isn’t necessarily a very Indian thing, but it’s fun for us to be able to take flavors that we’ve enjoyed or techniques that are Indian and putting those into our cakes,” Reema said during a recent phone conversation that also included Ravi, ahead of the finale episode. “We just wanted to show the versatility in who we are … and introduce new things to people.”

Reema Patel’s mice-shaped baos await their fate on “Baking It.”

Peacock

Ravi added, “Our goal was to incorporate Indian spices and flavors into every challenge, and really show the grandma [judges] that there are other spices out there, as opposed to sticking to typical American styles.”

The Patels are one of three sibling pairs featured this season among the teams, which have also included friends, married couples and roommates. All of the contestants still chat over a group text, said Reema, who added that the atmosphere throughout the production was a “fun-loving, good time.” 

The teams even used pauses in filming to break out in song.

“We did a lot of Akon’s ‘Locked Up,’” joked Ravi, a reference to COVID restrictions that didn’t allow the teams to exit their hotel rooms during production except for taping episodes.

The Patels said that cooking was the thing that really bonded them when they were younger, and, for that reason, it’s become something sacred for them.

“Growing up, we didn’t really get along. The one thing that made us really close was food,” said Reema.

Ravi also recalled finding common ground in the Food Network as children, making their televised experience on “Baking It” come full circle.

“We’d fight over everything. But at night, we’d watch Food Network. It was totally normal for us to look forward to watching Emeril Lagasse at 6 p.m. … As we got older, we started making the things we saw on TV, and that was a way we bonded.”

“Growing up, we didn’t really get along. The one thing that made us really close was food,” said Reema Patel, about her brother Ravi.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The siblings also found common ground in helping others. Both Patels entered the healthcare field early on in their careers — Reema worked as a therapist specializing in substance abuse and addiction, and Ravi continues to find his calling as a travel ICU nurse.

“For me, food has a huge overlap. A lot of why I even started leaning toward food is realizing that even a small dessert can make someone’s day better,” said Reema. “It’s therapeutic for me as well to be the one making it.”

Reema eventually realized that baking was her passion, and she left her therapy practice to pursue her culinary dreams full-time, first cutting her teeth in the kitchens at Blackberry Market café in Glen Ellyn, and Edge of Sweetness Bakery and Café in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood. She now prepares custom creations for clients, many of which can be seen on her Instagram pages (@itsreemap and @reema_bakes), which is also where a casting agent for “Baking It” found her. 

“I saw a post for the show and I liked it, but I never sent in an application or anything. A couple months later, a casting agent reached out to me,” recalled Reema. “We hopped on a phone call and they asked who I’d want to bring with me. And of course I was like, ‘My brother!’ We had to go through series of interviews and casting but that’s how it happened, through Instagram and luck, I guess.”

While Reema had to remain mum about the results of the finale before it airs, she did say if she wins, she’d like to eventually open her own bakery. “I really hope I can expand,” she said. 

As for Ravi, he divulged he did the show primarily to support Reema’s ambitions, though Reema countered that he deserves a lot more credit. “I couldn’t have been on the show without him,” she said.

Ravi may want to open his own restaurant in the future, noting that Roost is one of his favorites in Chicago, though he has a lot of non-culinary interests and passions, including acting as an advocate for Type 2 Diabetes awareness and education. Reema and Ravi’s parents and both sets of grandparents have all been diagnosed with the condition. Reema said it’s something that also comes into play when she bakes.

“I think that’s why I didn’t bake so much growing up, and am doing so more now, because before it was like, who’s going to eat it? Now it is in the back of my mind a lot, like when I make buttercream and things that are super sugary,” Reema shared. “It also makes you conscious of how you eat your dessert. You can have a taste and appreciate the fact you’re enjoying it, which makes it more meaningful.” 

And doing that with family, whether her brother or new relationships she’s molded through all of her new experiences, is ultimately what makes Reema feel fulfilled, she said.

“It’s really special that food can bring people together.”

Watch the last four episodes of “Baking It,” Season 2 on Peacock now. The final episode will drop Jan. 9. Also available now on Peacock, a celebrity version of “Baking It,” featuring Fred Armisen, Kristen Bell, Nicole Richie and JB Smoove.

Try these recipes from Reema Patel:

Churro cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Churro cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, as created by Reema Patel.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

CUPCAKE INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour1 1/2 cups cake flour1 tablespoon baking powder1/2 teaspoon salt1 tablespoon ground cinnamon1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature1 3/4 cups sugar4 large eggs, room temperature2 teaspoons vanilla extract1 1/4 cups milkSalted Butter + Cinnamon sugar for topping

DIRECTIONS:

1. Measure out dry ingredients & whisk together or sift into a separate bowl 

2. Cream butter & sugar on high speed for 3-5 minutes until light & fluffy 

3. Turn mixer down to low speed and add in eggs & vanilla 

4. Alternate adding half your dry ingredients & milk, mix to combine but do NOT overmix 

5. Portion into cupcake tins or cake pans and bake at 350 degrees

6. When the cupcakes/cakes are cooled, brush with salted butter & a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar ( I like a hefty layer but use your judgment!) 

NOTE: Don’t have cake flour? Make your own by using 1 cup all purpose flour & replacing 2 tablespoons of flour with cornstarch, just whisk it up and you’ve got DIY cake flour! 

FROSTING INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened8 ounces cream cheese, softened1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract1/4 teaspoon salt 4 cups confectioners’ sugar

DIRECTIONS:

1. On high speed whip together butter, cream cheese, salt & vanilla for 5 minutes or until creamy/lump free

2. With mixer on low, slowly add in powdered sugar (1 cup at a time) until smooth & combined 

3. Eat by the spoonful or use to decorate your cupcakes! 

Quick & Easy Mocha Mousse

 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream 1/3 cup cocoa powder (Dutch preferred), sifted1/2 cup powdered sugar1 teaspoon espresso powder 

DIRECTIONS:

1. Whip cold heavy cream on high until slightly thickened (soft peaks)

2. Add in cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and espresso powder 

3. Whip until stiff peaks form 

4. Pipe or scoop into serving bowls and chill until ready to serve 

Optional: Top with crumbled cookies of your choice (Oreos, Biscoff, graham crackers, etc)

 

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