Pastry Chef At Mystic's Sift Bake Shop To Compete On Food Network

For a few years, the Food Network kept calling Adam Young. Every so often, the pastry chef's phone would ring, and producers would be interested in featuring him on upcoming programs. But the timing never seemed to work out.

A show would be taping in July, for example, during the busiest season at the Ocean House in Westerly, R.I., where Young was the executive pastry chef responsible for 24-hour operations. When they called again in early 2016, he had left Ocean House, preparing for the spring opening of his own bakery, the French-style Sift Bake Shop in downtown Mystic.

On top of that, he and his wife, Ebbie, were expecting their first child, daughter Stella, just weeks before Sift's debut.

"I said, 'I'm not making this up, we're having a baby, we're opening a new business,'" Young says, laughing. "I said, 'I would love to do it but I just can't'."

The network called again more recently, and the timing finally lined up, allowing Young to head off to Hollywood to tape the newest season of "Spring Baking Championship." The competition show with host Jesse Palmer, which begins airing March 12, features nine bakers from across the country who will complete themed dessert challenges celebrating spring holidays: Easter, Derby Day, Mother's Day and more.

"It was a wonderful experience. It was nice to see how the whole thing works and how it gets produced," Young says. He's required to keep mum about his results on the show's upcoming season, as a contestant is eliminated every week by championship judges Nancy Fuller, Duff Goldman and Lorraine Pascale. The final baker standing wins a $50,000 grand prize and the title of Spring Baking Champion.

With 18-hour shooting schedules and hectic baking challenges with surprise curve balls, "it was much more physically and emotionally demanding than I thought it was going to be," he says. "Here you are, you're competing, there's a large monetary value at the end, you're hustling. You don't want to be kicked off on TV."

Young is a native of Vermont, a classically trained professional with a degree from the New England Culinary Institute and experience in both pastry and savory cooking. Before joining the Ocean House staff, he held positions at hotels, restaurants and clubs in New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Vero Beach, Fla. He calls his five-plus years at the exclusive Rhode Island oceanfront venue a "wonderful" and "challenging" experience, but was looking toward a new venture — bringing his high-end pastries and breads to a larger audience beyond hotel guests and visitors.

For his next step, he acquired an empty suite on Mystic's Water Street and spent three months renovating the space into what would become Sift, a French-inspired, light-filled bakery with clean, nautical-inspired white and blue décor. When Sift opened on May 4, "we hit the ground running," Young says, immediately capturing the interest of locals and tourists alike with its daily selection of scratch-made cookies, muffins, artisanal breads, quiches, scones and tortes.

"We actually call [these] 'the achievable luxury'," Young says of Sift's confections. "These aren't multi-thousand-dollar a night rooms; they're $3 cookies."

Best-sellers include scratch-made croissants (81 layers of hand-rolled butter and dough, $2.95 to $3.25 apiece) in plain, sweet and savory varieties. On the busiest days, Sift can sell as many as 1,000 of these, Young says, and he has two bakers dedicated just to croissant production. Delicate French macarons ($1.95) are another favorite, with recent flavors like peanut butter and jelly, raspberry milk chocolate and vanilla bean. Entremets, including carrot cake roulade, lemon tarts with meringue and opera cakes with hazelnut sponge cake and espresso ganache, are priced at $4.95.

Sift also does breads ($3.25 to $8.50): moist focaccia in half and full loaves, brioche, baguettes, Parker House rolls and hearty "brewer's multigrain" with a local beer sour starter. The breads serve as canvas for daily sandwiches ($7.75 to $9.95) like prosciutto with arugula and chevre, chicken salad with cranberries, apples and almonds; roasted turkey with cranberry aioli, spinach and Brie.

An extensive beverage program features hot and iced coffee drinks such as lattes and cappuccinos, with house-crafted syrups, sauces and extracts in seasonal flavors like butter rum, rosemary ginger, mint chocolate cookie and caramelized white chocolate. Sift also offers tea and chai drinks, freshly squeezed lemonade and local Farmer's Cow milk.

Sift provides breads and pastries for several local establishments, like S&P Oyster Company, Whaler's Inn and Spicer Mansion, and handles custom special-occasion cakes for birthdays and weddings. Young is also working toward expanding the savory offerings at Sift and obtaining a liquor permit, with the intention of serving new salads and charcuterie plates alongside wine, beer and mimosas.

"We've been off to a wonderful start; it's nice to see the community, the same faces day after day," he says.

"That's what it's meant to be — a community-focused asset for the town, something unique to this area. That's how we've positioned it so far."

SIFT BAKE SHOP, 5 Water St., Mystic, is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. "Spring Baking Championship airs on Food Network beginning March 12 at 9 p.m. 860-245-0541, siftbakeshopmystic.com.

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