Have you tuned in to see Richmond native and pastry chef Justin Ross compete as a colorblind baker in Food Network’s “Spring Baking Championship”?
The competition is currently airing at 8 p.m. Monday on TV and streaming on discovery+.
“It’s a springtime show, and knowing that, being extra-colorful with the food or desserts that are going to be created was really going to be a hurdle,” Ross says. “This would be one way to really push myself … and hopefully be an inspiration to someone else who may see themselves with some type of disability or thinking they’re at a disadvantage and overcoming that.”
Ross, who runs JC’s Desserts at Hatch Kitchen RVA, says being a colorblind chef is a daily challenge, particularly when making custom jobs where clients request specific colors.
“Of course, we live in 2022, and there’s an app for that,” Ross says, chuckling. “I just snap a photo and the app takes it, and I’m able to actually drag my finger over different parts of the picture and then it’ll tell me what color is what.”
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Of course, when competing on a TV baking show, cellphones and apps are not allowed.
“I was trying to play towards my strength, really trying to hit home with the flavors and hopefully taking that to the next level and hopefully making up for the color blindness in some areas,” Ross, 31, says, noting he was most worried about creating “springtime-cute” desserts given that his confections, particularly his artisan chocolates, offer more of a “grown-up, sexy vibe.”
Ross is one of 12 competitors in the series that is hosted by Molly Yeh and judged by Duff Goldman, Kardea Brown and Nancy Fuller, all Food Network stars. The winner will take home a $25,000 grand prize. More information on the show’s website.
Ross, a 2008 graduate of Varina High School and a 2014 graduate of the Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, N.C., returned to Richmond in 2020 after a stint as pastry sous chef at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.
“A lot of what I learned about chocolates was formed while I was at the Greenbrier, where I was able to have a lot of free time and a quiet space to study and practice and form the chocolates I create today,” Ross says. “I’ve picked up so many tips and tricks along the way from being at Norman Love Confections in Florida to my time in North Carolina and at the Greenbrier, so it’s really a mashup or a collage of a bunch of different chefs really putting an imprint [on me] in many different ways.”
JC’s Desserts — taken from his initials, Justin Christopher — opened a year ago. Ross fills orders through his website, https://jcdesserts.com/shop, for pickup, delivery or shipping.
“We definitely want to grow into a brick-and-mortar business and have locations from the Midlothian area to Short Pump to downtown as well,” Ross says, noting a lot of his business comes through his Facebook page, facebook.com/JCDesserts, and Instagram, instagram.com/JC__desserts/, which is how a casting producer found Ross and recruited him for “Spring Baking Championship,” which filmed in summer 2021 in Knoxville, Tenn.
“You go into it thinking it’s you against everybody else,” Ross says. “But after you get there and meet everybody, it really becomes you against yourself.”
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Rob Owen is a former Times-Dispatch staff writer. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Facebook and Twitter as @RobOwenTV.