Photograph by Ashley Elliott

Sweet Success

The Current sits down with “Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship” winner and corporate pastry chef, Dru Tevis.

Most of you likely recognize the name Dru Tevis; he might even be the reason why you picked up this issue. If you don’t, here is a quick primer. He is the corporate pastry chef for SoDel Concepts, a local restaurant group that includes, among others, both Bluecoast locations, Thompson Island Brewing, Crust & Craft and all the Matt’s Fish Camp locations. Oh, and he also won “Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship” last year.

I sat down with him in the middle of April, where he talked with as much intensity and unbashed enthusiasm about his early professional experience at the beach as he does his current responsibility as SoDel Concept’s corporate pastry chef.

Surprisingly, he does very little baking at home. “Any time there’s something special, I do it at work. I hate using a home kitchen for baking. Christmas Day is the only exception to that because the restaurant is closed.”

You would think the lack of sweets might put a cloud over some marriages, but Dru says his husband Chase doesn’t miss them. “People always ask Chase, “How are you not 500 pounds?’ He is somewhat picky and selective, so I only bring stuff home that I know he will enjoy.”

Before being hired by La Vida Hospitality and eventually moving over to SoDel Concepts, he started as a bartender under Glenda, the head chef at Blue in downtown Rehoboth, where Cilantro is now. It was supposed to be a summer job before he went to film school, but he took over managing the front of house and offered to make a dessert special when Glenda told him she hated making desserts. That first brownie special was well received, so Glenda asked him to put together a regular dessert menu, which solidified his philosophical approach to dessert.

“I wanted to make sure I was doing Delaware proud, doing my company proud and doing all my friends and family proud.”

“It’s my responsibility to close out that experience and make sure the dessert lives up to everything they’ve had. That is what made me fall in love with working in restaurants, specifically. Being the one responsible for that end cap, making people happy. On a given night, I could be touching hundreds of diners with that finisher to the meal. Yes, it was intimidating, but also, it is exciting because I’ve never had the ability to reach that many people on a single night.”

I wanted to get Dru’s thoughts on being a Delawarean (or at least, a Maryland-born Delaware professional) on a national stage. He confirmed what we have all known for a long time: not many people know where Delaware is. “Many people operate under the delusion that we’re in New England or Pennsylvania. I did think it was so cool the support I got being in a small town versus if you’re from New York. Nobody cares there. But there was so much enthusiasm in this area because people know me. I wanted to make sure I was doing Delaware proud, doing my company proud and doing all my friends and family [proud]. It added pressure but it made the payoff so much greater.”

But there was a lot of work to get to that payoff. The shows are a constant slog, physically and emotionally, both during filming and after the competition wraps. “It’s like taking the most important final exam of your entire life, but you have no idea what is going to be on it, so you can’t study for it. And you’re not just doing it once, you’re doing it day after day after day. And it’s filmed.”

Above all, Dru says he tried to remind himself that the competition was a TV show that is meant to be entertaining. “We had a baked Alaska challenge where we had to make it look like a Christmas tree, The judges loved the way it tasted, but told me it looks like a green monster. I was offended at first but Duff Goldman, one of the judges, reminded me that I have to always think, will this look good on TV?”

For now, his “Food Network” winnings are locked away safely, the subject of an ongoing discussion between himself and Chase about exactly what deserves the splurge. The top contender is international travel, followed closely by a boat Chase found.

The little bit of time Dru isn’t in a kitchen, he’s keeping active to stave off the climbing calorie counts that come with taste testing on the job. Or he’s watching “Survivor.” “It is my must-see-TV each week. It started when I was in middle school, and I have never missed an episode. Before DVR was a thing, I used to record every episode on VHS. The finale night each season remains appointment TV for me.”

Dru’s Local Favs

  • Sunset spot Our backyard dock
  • Shop Browseabout Books
  • Meal Flank steak and sides (whether at a steakhouse or a grill night at home).
  • Lunch spot Seed
  • Beach Conquest (Between Dewey and the bridge)
  • Trail Junction and Breakwater Trail
  • Coffee Swell Joe
  • Happy hour Margaritas at Papa Grandes!
  • Beach activity Does laying in my beach chair count? 🙂
  • Beach read Lucy Foley has been my latest obsession.
  • Ice cream spot Agape
  • Live music scene Would you believe I have never been to a concert? Never been my thing.
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