Next week, TV viewers will be able to watch an Oak Harbor High School graduate go to battle armed with a spatula and plenty of frosting.
If he wins, he will be crowned the best holiday baker.
Jonathan Peregrino, class of 2000, was selected for Food Network’s seventh season of Holiday Baking Championship. Everyone from home bakers to trained pastry chefs will try their hand at making a variety of sweet treats for the title and the top prize of $25,000.
Peregrino was not always a baker —— in fact, he’s been in the baking industry for just a few months.
“When you really look at it, I’ve had about three months total in this industry,” Peregrino said.
The new baker went to middle school and high school in Oak Harbor. He also worked in the food court at the Navy Exchange, usually at the coffee stand, while in high school. His parents still live in Oak Harbor.
After graduating, Peregrino earned an undergraduate degree in business and worked in sales and marketing for 15 years. He always thought he would go into the food industry someday.
“I just love food, and baking has always been super simple for me and it comes pretty naturally. I actually thought I was going to have my own restaurant,” he said. “But looking at the business aspect, I saw more opportunities for me to do well, quickly, on the baking side.”
Peregrino left the corporate world two years ago, he said.
“I made a pact with myself that by time I turned 40, I’d get the ball rolling,” Peregrino said.
He’s 38 years old now, so he made good on his pact a little early.
He went to pastry school in Manila, Philippines, because he found a three-month program that could teach him the foundations of baking. His grandmother also spends a portion of the year there, and his parents were on vacation, so the timing was right. His parents taught him a lot of what he knows, he added.
After he finished pastry school, he found a job at a bakery in Detroit, Mich., where he lives. Then the pandemic struck and he was left unemployed. As time went on he started searching for what to do next, and then one day he received a message on social media from a casting director.
“I thought it was a joke and I sort of went with it for a little bit,” Peregrino said with a laugh.
Quickly, he found out it wasn’t a joke and found himself in California working alongside a dozen bakers.
Being a part of the show changed the trajectory of his baking career and pulled him out of the funk he had been in earlier this year.
“I really had doubted myself in making such a big career change and life change. But coming out of it, the people I had met and the feedback I’ve gotten —— it really changed my mentality and got me out of this funk that I had been in,” he explained.
Now he’s working two jobs: he’s the head baker at a coffee shop and a pastry chef at a restaurant under a two Michelin star chef.
“I am the happiest I have ever been,” he said.
Peregrino had to keep the sweet competition a secret from most of his friends (and he couldn’t say if he had won or discuss the pre-recroded show in detail at this point).
After the show recently announced that he was one of the contestants, he’s heard from some old friends. Maybe some high school friends will see him on the show, he said.
“Hopefully they’ll check it out and see what I’m up to nowadays.”