Union resident competes on ‘Next Baking Master: Paris’

Jennalyn Walbot of Union is one of 10 bakers, three of them from New Jersey, who is appearing in ‘Next Baking Master: Paris,’ a show that debuted on Monday, May 6, on the Food Network.

UNION, NJ — Ten bakers are competing in Paris. Three of them are from New Jersey, including Jennalyn Walbot of Union. The winner of “Next Baking Master: Paris” will receive a full suite of France’s top-of-the-line professional kitchen appliances and baking equipment valued at $25,000.

The show debuted on Monday, May 6, but was filmed last year. “We were gone over a month in September,” Walbot said. “My daughter was not even a year old yet.”

Now, rewatching the series, Walbot said, “It was such a crazy experience.”

Walbot felt she brought her Asian flair to the show. She met her husband, chef Joshua Walbolt, at The Culinary Institute of America. They have worked together in different restaurants in the United States.

“I’m representing my own Filipino culture,” she said.

Growing up in a family filled with the medical industry – nurses and doctors – Walbot was pushed to follow that path. She went to nursing school, but was not happy.

“Just seeing my own mom and aunts exhausted. They make a really decent living. ‘It’s security. You’ll be safe.’ I also wanted to be happy. I wanted to make money doing something I love,” she said.
Though her mother was in the medical industry, she always cooked. “Growing up, we had tons of family parties,” she said. “It was always at our home. Mom would be the host. That’s where I got my hospitality from – making sure everyone is comfortable.”

After graduating from high school, Walbot took college courses in nursing. She was great at what she was doing, but not happy. “Something is missing,” she said. “I really like baking. Is it possible to turn my passion into a career? Here I am today.”

Walbot didn’t win the first challenge. It was Robert Toland from Willingboro. “He brought his A-game,” she said. “They all brought their A-game.”

Viewers may wonder, what is it about New Jersey that three Jersey bakers made it to the competition? Walbot said, “We’re so culturally diverse in New Jersey. We’re so close to the city, but also have this great little suburban life. We have this passion to pursue our dreams, but bring a little flair. Joe Settepani from Morganville, bringing his Italian roots. We’re all a huge melting pot of cultures.”

Now that Walbot is living her dream, it’s not without challenges. Being in the same career as her husband is hard.

“Coming out of my own identity, instead of being the wife of an award-winning chef,” she said. After the pandemic, we found out we were pregnant. Pregnant again. I took a sabbatical. Focused all my time into being a mom. We struggled with infertility and were finally blessed with a child. At the same time, I miss my old life. I’m taking care of my kids at home. Helping him, it’s just not the same. This opportunity came, I could bring something to the table. Put myself first. That was a huge opportunity for me. I’m living up to my own title as pastry chef.”

Walbot was able to bring her daughter to the show, because she was still breast-feeding her. “I was literally pumping on the show,” she said.

Though she struggled with a work-life balance, her life is “super rewarding.”

Explaining further, Walbot said, “Seeing it all happen. Growing up, my parents were work-driven. I never really got a relationship with them. When I became a parent, I wanted to be present at home, giving my kids everything. A parent who is there when they cry, cheering them on when they reach a new milestone. Supporting my husband.”

Walbot and her husband both have a huge support system with each other. Together, they are holding pop-up shows in Jersey City under the name, Bar None, featuring traditional comfort foods.

When she’s not working, Walbot is a full-time mom. “And always will be,” she said. “Raising two little ones. I have a third on the way. Busy, busy!”

‘Next Baking Master’ is hosted by Stephanie Boswell and Ludo Lefebvre.

To learn more about the show, visit: https://www.foodnetwork.com/shows/next-baking-master-paris.

Photo Courtesy of Food Network