BAKING LIKE THERE'S NO TOMORROW ... Eric Keppler, executive pastry chef at the Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley in East Palo Alto, was declared the "Best Baker in America" on Monday night. Keppler earned the title after seven intensive episodes on the Food Network competition show. The three contestants brought out the chops for the finals under the theme "chocolate birthday bash." They first had to create an upgraded birthday brownie sundae in two hours. Keppler presented a double chocolate brownie with banana cocoa nib ice cream. The judges raved about the dessert, calling it "gorgeous," "impeccably incredible" and "elegant." They were particularly impressed by Keppler's use of white miso in his butterscotch. "Miso want some more!" judge Jason Smith said. For the final challenge, the competitors had six hours to deliver a happy birthday USA chocolate fireworks cake. Keppler recreated his nana's dark chocolate fudge cake and fulfilled the salty snack requirement with a chocolate and pretzel streusel inside. The three-tier creation was covered in a white chocolate mirror glaze; surrounded by passion fruit chocolate and strawberry chocolate mararons; and topped off with sugar decorations and bottle rockets made out of balloons covered in chocolate. "I love nana's cake!" judge Marcela Valladolid said during the judging panel's deliberations. "Everything he does he brings to life," Smith added. Along with the title, Keppler walked away with the coveted prize of $25,000.
MAKINGS OF A CITY ... For one day, the Palo Alto community will have a chance to get up close with bucket trucks, learn what's inside a transformer, say hello to Sequoia the Bald Eagle and learn about other "behind-the-scenes" work at the city during the Municipal Service Center open house on Friday, July 5. The family event will give attendees chance to talk to representatives from several city departments and partners including Palo Alto Utilities, the Police and Fire departments, Pets In Need and Zero Waste program. There also will be information on electric safety, water, wastewater and gas operations; where city utilities come from; facilities systems; EcoHome and efficiency programs; cybersecurity and watershed protection. The open house is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Municipal Service Center, 3201 E. Bayshore Road. Anyone who plans to attend is encouraged to bring their own water bottle and bike, walk or carpool to the center where parking spots are available. To RSVP, visit paloaltomunicipalservicescenteropenhouse.bpt.me.