Sweet Genius

Ron Ben-Isreal serves up a big slice of his cunning creativity to Hampton Roads

Ron Ben-Israel of The Food Network

We admit it, we are sweet on the Food Network’s Sweet Genius, Ron Ben-Israel.

And who wouldn’t be? The famed pastry chef creates cakes so beautiful, so thought-provoking, that the lines between reality and fantasy blur. “Edible works of art” doesn’t even begin to describe the masterpieces, which have an off-the-chart amount of attention and detail in them down to the last frosting flourish.

Then there is the television Ben-Israel, a pâtissier Willy Wonka that drives the contestants on his Sweet Genius television show to expand their horizons in both comfort levels and creativity. His passion, his drive and his impish grin? Love ’em.

Imagine then our complete delight when approached by the good folks at Tidewater Builders Association, who produce the annual Mid-Atlantic Home & Garden Show, to help craft, along with Culinary Institute of Virginia, a competition showcasing local talent with Ben- Israel as the lead judge.

We swooned.

So mark your calendars for the Tiny Temptations Cake Competition on March 3 during the home and garden show at the Virginia Beach Convention Center; check out the sidebar for more information.

As if it couldn’t get any better, we scored an exclusive interview with Ben-Israel, who gave sage advice for our Tiny Temptations contestants and budding home pastry chefs.

HRM: Your career began as a soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces, and later you became a professional dancer. How did these prepare you for what you do now?
RBI: The military and dancing have a lot of discipline involved. Discipline, organizing and learning. You must be disciplined in culinary. You must always be learning.

HRM: How did you start your culinary journey?
RBI: It started as a necessity of making a living. I was no longer able to make a living from dancing, and I thought about a variety of outlets. Cakes were just a part of it, but it was what was the most successful. Find what you are most successful at.