Healdsburg culinary teacher stars on Food Network’s ’Spring Baking Championship’

Derek Corsino is one of 11 contestants to appear on Season 7 of “Spring Baking Championship.”|

Among the students at Healdsburg High School, teacher Derek Corsino already is considered a rock star — a celebrity pastry chef who also happens to run the school’s culinary department and award-winning career technical education program.

Corsino will elevate his profile even more in their eyes, as he becomes a contestant on a reality cooking show from the Food Network.

The show, titled “Spring Baking Championship” kicks off with a two-hour premiere Monday (Feb. 22) at 9 p.m. on Food Network and the Discovery Plus app. It is hosted by Ali Khan and judges include Kardea Brown, Nancy Fuller and Duff Goldman.

Corsino, who’s also an adjunct professor at Santa Rosa Junior College, is one of 11 contestants, and he is the only one with ties to Sonoma County.

The show is Corsino’s fourth appearance on the network since 2011, but it’s without question his biggest opportunity at widespread fame. The 33-year-old St. Helena resident has a chance to out-cook opponents for all 10 episodes and take home the grand prize of $25,000 and a spot in Food Network Magazine.

“It was such an honor to be chosen to compete in this,” he said. “I hope to do everyone back (in Wine Country) proud.”

Technically, Corsino already knows how the story ends; the network filmed all the episodes at Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes late last year, and he has been sworn to secrecy about what happens over the course of the season.

He did, however, reveal some tidbits.

For example, all filming was done under special COVID-19 protocols that included social distancing, mask-wearing and a pre-taping quarantine. He also said that he was taking virtual graduate school classes at night. Corsino added that he competes against one of his former students — a young chef he taught before his time in Healdsburg, back when he was working at a small college in northern Virginia.

Another tidbit: Corsino wore a Healdsburg High School bracelet in every scene — his own quiet tribute to his students back home.

“Yes, I did this for glory and fame, but at the end of the day I also want my students to watch something and be really happy to see their teacher up there working hard,” said Corsino, who has almost 130 students this semester and is teaching all of them virtually until in-person school resumes.

Corsino, a native of Poughkeepsie, New York, has run the Healdsburg High School culinary program for four years and has become a bit of a superstar among students who sign up, for his dynamism and his resume — he trained at the Culinary Institute of America and previously appeared on single episodes of the Food Network reality shows “Food Network Challenge” and “Sugar Dome.”

Under Corsino’s leadership, the culinary program has built an impressive track record. Nationally, 1% of students in high school culinary arts programs go into the culinary industry. At Healdsburg High, about 3 - 4% of students do.

Gael Garcia, a junior, credits Corsino with directly inspiring him to want to become a pastry chef.

“The way he teaches his class makes it all very exciting,” Garcia said. “He explains everything with easy-to-follow instructions and he’s really encouraging.”

Garcia noted that during his time in Corsino’s class, students learned how to make pizza dough, blueberry muffins and other staples. Other students from years past have applauded Corsino’s eclectic and diverse approach to teaching a class about cuisines from around the world.

Shelley Anderson, work-based learning coordinator for Healdsburg High School, said she expects demand for Corsino’s classes to spike after this latest Food Network show.

“What high school student wouldn’t want to learn from a TV star?” she asked.

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