– Many Catholics can name a priest who is renowned for his academic abilities, mission work, or inspiring homilies. But what about a priest who has received national attention for his baking skills?
Meet Father Kyle Schnippel, a pastor at two Cincinnati parishes who hopes his upcoming presence on The Great American Baking Show will offer non-Catholics insight into the human side of a priest’s life.
“My world is as much a foreign language to them as their world is to me. So what I wanted to do was just [be] a priest and [show] the joy,” Schnippel told CNA.
The third season of ABC’s American baking series will premiere on Dec. 7 at 9 p.m. EST. Throughout six episodes, the bakers will travel around the U.S. competing in holiday-themed challenges.
Schnippel is the pastor at Corpus Christi and St. John Neumann parishes in Cincinnati. Although baking had a large presence in his childhood home, his doughy adventures seriously took off about three years ago, when he decided to prepare the baked goods for his first parish festival.
As time went on, he began to bake more often, and found that he enjoyed sharing his gifts with others.
“It’s so much different than what we normally get to do as priests. We don’t normally get to see the results of what we do. With baking we get to see those results, smell those results,” and see the joy it can bring to people, he said.
Schnippel received a link to the show’s online application from a friend on Facebook. After providing detailed information on his baking experience and knowledge, the priest received a call a few months later, followed by a Skype interview.
He was then flown out to New Jersey, where he participated in a mock trail of the series’ competitions and presented his baked goods for the judges. Shortly after that, he received a call that he had been selected for the show.
At one point on the show, Schnippel said he was asked to prepare a recipe in advance that had a strong personal connection and coincided with the holiday season. Looking back on past Christmases, he decided to use his mother’s cinnamon roll recipe.
“Instead of cutting into individual cinnamon rolls, I rolled up the dough and cut it lengthwise to have all these pleats and braided that…It’s the same flavor, but I decorated it up, putting it together in a new way.”
Schnippel was not permitted to talk about the competition, but he had to explain his several-weeks absence to parishioners.
According to the Catholic Digest, he told them that he was going to be gone for an evangelization project – which wasn’t a lie.
“I made it a requirement that I be allowed to wear clerics on the show because it’s a reflection of who I am,” he told the Catholic Digest.
“After filming, one of the other contestants said something along the lines of, ‘Thank you so much for being such a joyful witness of your faith and the priesthood. Even though I am not Catholic, I got a sense of the joy that you have in who you are and what you do. Thank you for sharing that with us.’”
Schnippel told CNA that being on a baking show could also help break down stereotypes that some people have of Catholic priests, seeing them only as an austere religious figure.
“There is this impression in our world that priests are always serious, they only do religion. I wanted to break down that [perception], and say ‘hey, we are still real men. We still have interests and excitement in a lot of other ways’,” he said.
“You can take the priesthood very seriously, but also still have a lot of fun.”
When asked about his favorite moments from the show, he said that he enjoyed the positive feedback offered by the judges and the baking comradery that developed between the contestants.
Even during the competition, there were acts of encouragement and support, he said, pointing to moments when he was able to help other contestants remove food from the oven or stack items when they needed an extra hand.
“That came back to me later, just those memories of encouraging each other and supporting each other makes this particular show very positive for Christmas.”
And while he was not allowed to talk about the outcome of the competition, Schnippel expressed hope that his participation in the show would inspire people to face daunting challenges in their own lives.
“I hope that what people will take from the show is accepting a challenge where they may not think that they can do it. I never thought I would be able to get on this show. So taking the risk and doing something extraordinary, you never know what’s going to happen.”