LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Ulterior motive perhaps? Only chef Oscar Sanchez and wife Jane Villela, a confection whiz, say they aren’t really trying to hide their objective in the Las Vegas Dessert Wars competition.
“Our goal here in this event is to promote healthy eating,” says Sanchez, 43, the winner of the inaugural Chef Battle Las Vegas in 2020.
Wait. It’s not all about winning a food competition that features judging from folks who’ve been on the Food Network or Netflix? And in a sugar-overloaded, pastry-packed onslaught of nearly 60 dessert-driven competitors, you’re trying to sell “healthy eating?”
Exactly, say the couple entered as Jane’s Gluten Free Bakery, a Las Vegas-based supplier of pastries, bread, desserts and more — all “healthy options,” according to Villela.
Saturday’s Dessert Wars at The Expo at World Market Center — the event is a sellout — is the first stop of an eight city tour for the competition, which picks a Judge’s Champion and selects People’s Choice Awards. After the eight-city stop is completed, the top three in each category square off in Atlanta for the Grand Prize of $20,000 on Dec. 2.
Villela, also 43, a native of Guatemala, met Sanchez about four years ago in Las Vegas at a business seminar. The two hit it off, of course, and because of his appreciation for her approach to desserts, are all about sending a message.
“Especially for children,” says Sanchez, a native of Colombia. “It’s about eating healthy, taking care of your body.”
Villela, a certified nutritionist in Colorado, says devouring sweet treats doesn’t necessarily have to be unhealthy intakes of sugar and white flour, which often are blamed for obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Her creations are non-GMO (genetically modified organism), kosher, organic and gluten-free. “I’ve learned so much from her,” says Sanchez, who often acts as his wife’s interpreter.
“I speak only a little,” Villela says smiling as she describes her English proficiency.
What skills she hopes will resonate with attendees Saturday during the competition are packed in a chilled blueberry pie and a chocolate cake with strawberries, she says. Remember: gluten-free, organic and healthy.
The blueberry pie features a crust of oats and nuts, Sanchez says, and the chocolate cake has a blend of alternative flours.
The plan is to make about 1,000 samples — 500 of each dessert — to be served on containers provided by Chef Rubber, one of their sponsors.
“It’s a challenge,” Sanchez admits. “It’s a big, big challenge.”
Going against more traditional creations from some of the region’s best will be a hard sell. But if the message gets through …
“That’s the whole thing,” Sanchez says. “That’s the information we want to bring. There are good desserts. There are healthy options.”