Chevys Fresh Mex owner Tom O’Leary and his son Steve said they have cooked together for a long time but never baked in tandem until getting chosen for the new Peacock show “Baking It.”
Originally Steve was supposed to be joined on the show with Sarah Carr, the baker for Black Market Bakers food truck, which Steve owns. But when Steve went for his interview with NBC, he mentioned his dad and that’s who they wanted. Steve said he had to do some convincing to get Tom to go along.
“I needed to sleep on it,” said Tom, who operates the fresh Mexican food chain location in Annapolis, “and then I woke up and said, ‘Yeah, let’s see what happens.’”
All summer, the duo recorded themselves baking at home to send videos to NBC. They went to Burbank, California to tape for two weeks. They both said they are average bakers, a seven on a scale of 10.
“From the show, I think our preparation improved and [we learned] how long things need to be cooked,” Steve said. “Sarah always told us, ‘Do what is right in your heart’ but never a whole lot of instructions. So, we went off that for most of the show.”
“Baking It” launched Dec. 2 on the streaming service Peacock, with the O’Learys in all six episodes. The O’Learys competed with other groups of two, contending for $50,000 in prize money and the title of “best in dough.”
They expected Hollywood to be cutthroat like it is often portrayed, but celebrity show hosts Maya Rudolph and Andy Samberg kept it light on set, they said.
“We laughed a whole lot, and we didn’t take it too seriously,” Steve said. “I took a few things serious but dad didn’t. It was a little weird watching us on camera, and I don’t like the sound of my voice.”
The two made a lobster pie for the show, but said the gingerbread house was one of the hardest things they made.
“This is the first gingerbread that stuck together for us and the secret is [sugar substitute] isomalt,” Tom said. “The icing they give you in a box never works.”
Their three-layer cake was also a challenge.
“We are not cake decorators,” Steve said. “We cook things that taste good but not necessarily that look good. The three layers were hard and our cake was tilting.”
Tom said the show was fun overall. Steve joked his dad will get his own spin-off show from it.
Steve said he will read reviews on the show but won’t get his feelings hurt and Tom doesn’t care to read them. Overall, they liked how the show turned out.
Tom has been in the culinary world for more than 40 years. When he was in Los Angeles for school, he became a server and then moved his way up. Since being in Annapolis he has opened more than 20 restaurants. He also owns Chevys in Arundel Mills.
Steve recalled growing up watching his dad cooking family dinners, which eventually got him to love the business. Some of Steve’s favorite meals his dad makes are crab cakes, chicken dumplings, beef tenderloin and grilled chicken veggie pasta.
Tom didn’t want his kids to get into the culinary world because it is a tough business. Five years ago, Steve and his dad started a catering business together. Then when the pandemic set in, Steve started baking out of his home kitchen. That effort turned into the Annapolis food truck pop-up Black Market Bakers on the weekends.
“That really took off and we wanted to do more than just bread, so we experimented with other pastries,” Steve said. “That’s when the TV show reached out; they had seen our Instagram.”
Each week the baking truck menu changes. The biggest hits have been the oatmeal cream pies, cinnamon buns and breakfast sandwiches. The truck has been open for almost 18 months, and now Steve and Sarah will open a brick-and-mortar site in Edgewater at the beginning of 2022. The truck will stay in the parking lot of Chevys.
“Without the community through this pandemic we would have had nothing,” Steve said. “Each week, the food truck lines grew and grew. We have people that come back both days we are open and they are there at 5:45 a.m., and we don’t open until 7 a.m. That truck is our baby, and it has been so unbelievable.”
Tom joked that seeing his son’s business take off makes him want to retire. He said this has been 20 years in the making since his family has been a part of everything he has done.
“It is great to see them doing on it on their own, they have a great vision and we all believe in them. I am so proud of them,” he said.