Jesse Palmer Dishes on Hosting Food Network's Holiday Baking Championship
This story appears in the Dec. 17, 2018, issue of Sports Illustrated. For more great storytelling and in-depth analysis, subscribe to the magazine—and get up to 94% off the cover price. Click here for more.
Jesse Palmer is a former NFL quarterback, but he's better known for his other roles: the Bachelor, ESPN college football analyst and Food Network personality. This month, you can catch Palmer hosting the Holiday Baking Championship, a competition among eight amateur bakers. SI caught up with him to discuss how sweet a gig it really is.
SI: What made you want to host the Holiday Baking Championship?
JP: As a big time foodie, it's a dream job. I'm calorically challenged, though, because we shoot that show in New Orleans.
SI: Oh really? When do you film it?
JP: We shoot it in about 10 days in July. So it's the dead of summer, and we're putting on winter outfits and sweaters, filming from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. And you've got all this delicious food you're gobbling down. Then you go back to your hotel and you're in New Orleans, so you eat a 4,000-calorie dinner, and by the time you leave 10 days later, you've added 10 pounds. It's a great problem.
SI: I used to work for a cooking show myself, and I have a theory that baking shows are sports.
JP: This show really felt like a sport. It is a competition. There are winners and losers, cash prizes, a title at the end of the show. I'm the play-by-play sideline reporter and color analyst.
SI: Do you think being a high-profile football player prepared you for this part of your career?
JP: I was lucky playing at Florida and for the Giants. Those were big media markets with lots of cameras around all the time. Maybe that helped me feel more comfortable on camera. The only thing I wanted to do since I was seven was play quarterback in the NFL, but as I grew older, I started to discover other interests.
SI: What are your favorite shows?
JP: I watch Chef's Table, anything Anthony Bourdain did. I'm a huge Food Network fan—I still love watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
SI: Tell me you've met Guy Fieri.
JP: Oh, yeah, we played celebrity flag football against each other. He had the spiky hair. It was dangerous. If it hit you, you thought you might get cut up.
SI: Do you bake?
JP: No. I'm not good at baking. My girlfriend bakes phenomenally, though. The best brownies (see below) I've ever had. I'm very good at eating them.
Jesse's Favorite Flourless Chocolate Gooey Brownies
Recipe courtesy of Emely Fardo
• 16 oz. chocolate chips (mix of semisweet and dark)
• ¾ cup coconut sugar
• ¼ cup plus 2 Tbs. coconut oil
• 4 eggs, room temperature
• 2 Tbs. vanilla extract
• 2 Tbs. sugar-free cocoa powder
Preheat the oven to 385° F and prepare a 9 × 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper. In a sauce pan, mix the chocolate, sugar and oil. Melt everything over low heat, mixing very well. After the chocolate melts, remove it from the heat and mix in the eggs, adding one at a time and mixing well between each addition. Then add the vanilla, cocoa powder and a pinch of salt. Mix well. Add the mixture to the baking pan and place it in the oven. Bake for 16 minutes and serve.