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Mom’s perfect cheesecake inspires principal baker

Mike Jaquays
Staff writer
Posted 11/10/22

James Daino has been baking since he was just a child of maybe 8 or 9 years old, learning at the apron of his mother Rose while watching her as they tried new recipes together.

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Mom’s perfect cheesecake inspires principal baker


ROME — James Daino has been baking since he was just a child of maybe 8 or 9 years old, learning at the apron of his mother Rose while watching her as they tried new recipes together.

“I was always impressed by the way she experimented in the kitchen and would try new ideas,” Daino said. “I really enjoyed baking all kinds of new things with her.”

Now, her tutelage and inspiration might soon help him earn the title of Bake From Scratch magazine’s Greatest Baker for 2022.

They made everything from pastas to desserts in that kitchen, Daino recalled. The day she made her first cheesecake was one Daino will never forget, as he still remembers it was absolutely perfect, with no cracks in it at all.

Rose passed away when he was just 18. Now, Daino, the principal of John E. Joy Elementary School in Rome, is hoping to immortalize her memory and celebrate her recipes by writing a cookbook dedicated to his mother.

“I am in the process of finishing my doctorate and then hope to dive right into the cookbook,” he said. “I am going to try some new things for it and update some of my mom’s favorite recipes. I’m looking forward to writing this cookbook in my mom’s name and sharing some of the experiences I had with her when I was a child.”

The Greatest Baker contest could help make that happen. One competitor will take home the title of the 2022 Greatest Baker, along with a $10,000 prize and a feature article in Bake From Scratch magazine. Daino said if he wins he plans to use that money to finance the cookbook.

The contest is virtual and all voting is conducted online rather than in an actual baking competition where his creations would be sampled by a judge. Friends and family who have sampled his delicacies are the judges - and they cast their votes for him online to keep him moving up in the competition.

At press time, Daino was third in his group of 20 contestants. The competition started out with 47 bakers vying for the title, he added.

Online voting for the Greatest Baker Top 15 honorees ends at 10 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10 and then the competition continues from there for the next cut until the final Greatest Baker is named.

A native of Staten Island and Long Island and now a resident of Rome since August 2020, Daino said his signature creation is anything based from cheesecake.

“I love making cheesecake - it’s really a blank slate for me to work on,” Daino said. “I can take a plain cheesecake and alter it into whatever I want to make.”

A recent favorite was an Italian seven-layer cookie cheesecake crafted from scratch with raspberry and apricot jam coated with chocolate ganache, decorated with a cream cheese, raspberry and apricot frosting and decorated with Italian layer cookies.

One of his baking secrets is using his own vanilla extract that he makes using vanilla beans. And he never uses a measuring cup, he intimated - his ingredients are all weighed out for maximum accuracy and consistency.

Election Day might have come and gone, but Daino hopes for continued support in the polls. To cast a vote, visit

Daino said he truly enjoys his job and he works with a great faculty and staff, engaged students and supportive parents. But after a long day at school, Daino still enjoys the chance to cool down over a hot oven.

“I work hard as principal so it is great to have an outlet like this that helps me relax,” he said.

“This competition also sets a good example for my students that they can follow their own dreams and know that no matter what, they can still do more,” he added.


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