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Naylet LaRochelle loves baking. Whether its cookies or pies, this Cuban-American mother of three finds herself relaxing after a long day of work as a school psychologist by entering her kitchen and whipping up her famous dulce de leche banana pie.
“It’s just about creating something yummy in the kitchen,” the 44-year-old told Fox News Latino.
Her love of baking has earned her top prizes in competitions across the country and it has now propelled her to become one of four finalists remaining in the Food Network’s new “Holiday Baking Championships”
“(It’s) awesome. I am so proud of myself for getting that far,” said the Miami-Dade school psychologist.
Her feat is all the more remarkable because LaRochelle is the only remaining competitor who is not a professional baker. She said being an amateur baker at the beginning intimidated her, but also brought out her competitiveness.
“I thought ‘Oh my gosh, what did i get myself into?’” she recalled. “(But) I love competition.”
And it showed during the season. She survived four eliminations and impressed judges Duff Goldman (of “Ace of Cakes), Nancy Fuller (of “Farmhouse Rules”) and Lorraine Pascale (of “Lorraine’s Fast, Fresh and Easy Food”).
“Every episode, the pressure got bigger, more intense,” LaRochelle said.
And as she continued to progress through the various challenges thrown at the chefs, she became somewhat of a local celebrity.
“The response has been really overwhelming. You don’t know the consequences of being on TV,” she said. “The support from the community – people who don’t even know me are rooting for me.”
As for her family, they could not be more proud.
“I think my mom still doesn’t believe it,” LaRochelle said with a laugh. “She says ‘Oh I just saw you on a commercial!’ It’s like ‘yes, it’s for the show.’”
She revealed, though, the experience has been a little bittersweet because her grandmother recently died. An emotional LaRochelle said at least her grandmother got to see her on TV.
“You know how Latinos are, they watch novellas, and she got to see me on TV. That was really great. She couldn’t believe it,” LaRochelle said.
The next episode of “Holiday Baking Championship” airs on Sunday and LaRochelle said the challenge is very dear to her heart because it’s about making their favorite holiday breakfast traditions.
“It’s about the breakfast ties that we serve on cozy, warm mornings,” she said. “I loved the challenge.”
The last baker standing will receive a $50,000 prize. LaRochelle said if she were to win, she would first cross off a bucket list item and take a trip to Hawaii and then use the rest of the winnings to open up a pie shop in Miami.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do,” she said. “The time is right.”