After putting his advertising degree to good use at L'Oréal and Microsoft in New York City, Peter Tidwell took the next natural step in his career by moving to Provo, quitting his full-time job to open a bakery, and winning Food Network's Cake Wars—twice.
Well, maybe Tidwell's path of pursuing his passion didn't take the conventional route, but the baker and father of three has continued to find creative ways to share his talents with people across the nation—most recently on the Food Network show Halloween Baking Championship.
"It's been such a joy to get into something where you can create something so beautiful and it also tastes delicious at the same time," Tidwell says.
At the time Tidwell quit his advertising job to focus on opening the Mighty Baker in Provo, he wasn't unfamiliar with the culinary world. Tidwell had managed one of his brother's deli shops for 14 years before moving to New York, where baking became his creative outlet and stress relief.
"I would watch all the Food Network shows and just be in awe of the things they would create," Tidwell says. "Baking was my stress release and escape from my corporate job during the day. And then as that went on it kind of it slowly progressed from hobby to passion."
That passion gradually evolved into a side business and then a bakery of his own and full-time job. After opening the Mighty Baker, Tidwell decided to apply to Cake Wars at the urging of his wife.
The Tidwell family. Courtesy of Peter Tidwell.
"My wife has been a true, amazing champion for me and a really good encouragement for me through this whole process," Tidwell says. After a rigorous application process that included everything from interviews to portfolios of his creations, Tidwell made it onto Cake Wars in 2016 and invited Katrina Jones, someone he had often competed against in baking competitions, to be his partner on the show.
Their Halo-themed masterpieces—including a cranberry cake with blue cheese frosting and a chocolate brownie pound cake with vanilla buttercream frosting—won the duo $10,000.
"We ended up winning, which was a complete joy and a complete surprise because we were like, 'Let's try this out. Let's see what happens,'" Tidwell says.
In 2017, Tidwell and Jones appeared on Cake Wars again, this time on a champs-versus-champs face-off that required them to fly out the day after they were invited to participate on the show. The two once again secured the $10,000 prize with a ketchup cake with cream cheese frosting and tomato jam and a masterful, four-foot-high Power Rangers chocolate brownie cake with coconut buttercream.
"It was actually quite a wild ride," Tidwell says of winning Cake Wars twice and opening the Mighty Baker all within two years. "It was a lot of fun."
Because of leasing difficulties, Tidwell closed the Might Baker in 2018, and while he's taken another full-time job, he has kept up his craft competing on Halloween Baking Championship and preparing to open a new, innovative shop.
"It's been amazing," Tidwell says of his latest appearance on the Food Network. "I really love the energy and the fun and the challenge that these shows bring and it just reignites my passion even more for baking. I love the pressure of being able to try to put together desserts on a tight time frame. . . . A lot of people might think I am crazy, but it is actually really exhilarating for me."
In the first episode of Halloween Baking Championship, Tidwell created a slime doughnut monster with chocolate cookie eyes and blood orange marshmallow creme slime that caught the judges' attention and tantalized their tastebuds.
Peter Tidwell's slime monster. Image a screenshot for Food Network's Halloween Baking Championship.
In the next episode, Tidwell created a Día de los Muertos cake that updated a classic German chocolate recipe that blew the judges away.
Peter Tidwell's Dia de los Muertos cake. Image a screenshot for Food Network's Halloween Baking Championship.
One of the best aspects of the show for Tidwell is being able to meet and "compete against some of the best bakers in the country," many of whom have become long-term friends and colleagues.
Throughout his multiple appearances on the Food Network, Tidwell has been able to share his beliefs through the way he lives his faith. "It was very apparent to people, like within minutes of meeting me [that I was a Latter-day Saint]," Tidwell says. "I'm from Utah, have a young family, I don't drink alcohol, I don't drink coffee, and the questions come, 'Well, are you a Mormon? And are you a member of the Chruch?' And that is a fun opportunity and to help further the cause and help people know we are normal people like anybody else and care about loving and including others and that we are here to try and improve the world and help the world be a better place."
In fact, while competing on Halloween Baking Championship, Tidwell was able to generate conversations about his faith when he attended a local sacrament meeting. "Everybody was getting together to go to do something and I declined and said I was heading to church," Tidwell says. "That was also a good opportunity to not necessarily share a bunch of information about my faith but [share that] it was important to me."
In addition to living his beliefs no matter the circumstances, Tidwell also finds ways to deepen his faith through baking. "The one thing that I really, really love about baking is that I love the process," Tidwell says. Baking requires specific ingredients, steps, and procedures that combine to produce a beautiful outcome. "I also love that about the gospel of Jesus Christ," he continues. "If you follow the things that we have been directed, there are specific outcomes." To Tidwell, the gospel can easily be compared to a recipe for happiness and eternal life. But he also acknowledges, "Of course with a messed up recipe there is not much you can do other than add some frosting on it, but with the gospel, you can repair things."
Peter Tidwell on Halloween Baking Championship. Image courtesy of the Food Network.
Tidwell's passion for cooking has provided a unique way for him to connect with others in his community by speaking to BYU students and teens about ways they can find a creative outlet and make something beautiful in the world.
"I really want and really enjoy empowering those that are younger to try and help them to find those joys in their life and where they can succeed—whether that be cake decorating or art or photography or being a doctor or whatever it may be," Tidwell says.
In fact, Tidwell's new shop, which he plans to open later this year in Provo, will be designed to give people that creative outlet. The Mighty Baker Cake Creation Studio will be a place where people can decorate their own cakes and cupcakes or take cake decorating classes in a studio setting.
"I feel like baking, being able to decorate a cake, engaging yourself in a creative art in that way, and providing that opportunity for people to have some escape and have some release and just to be able to have a creative outlet . . . [can] help others find true joy," Tidwell says.
Watch Tidwell compete on the next episode of Halloween Baking Championship on October 7.