Crime Scene Kitchen Winners Luis And Natalie Dish On The Competition - Exclusive Interview

Fans of baking competitions likely remember when "Crime Scene Kitchen" first premiered on Fox earlier this summer. Mashed spoke to judges Curtis Stone and Yolanda Gampp, as well as the hilarious host, Joel McHale. While they explained that cunning bakers needed to pick up on a lot of clues and correctly interpret them from the kitchen, what we didn't know from week to week was just who would get it right.

The show's inaugural season just came to its conclusion with the final show-stopping bake being a birthday cake for Gampp, whose birthday fell on the last day of shooting. To make the finale all the more challenging, the first round was also an elimination round instead of an opportunity to win more clues. In the second round, the ultimate birthday cake for Gampp won the entire show and $100,000. Those lucky winners turned out to be Luis Flores and Natalie Collins-Fish of Las Vegas, and we were able to talk with them about the exciting news of their big win.

Natalie Collins-Fish on how she became a baker

Natalie, can you tell us a little bit about your journey from a beginner baker, all the way to "Crime Scene" Kitchen champion?

So I started baking when I was 3 with my grandmother, so I always kind of had a passion for it and I didn't really know where I was going to go after high school. I played field hockey for a while, so I thought maybe I would do that. Then I was looking into going to culinary school and I decided yep, I'm going to go ahead and make food with art or art with food as I should say. So we decided to go that way. So I went to the Culinary Institute of America. I did the baking and pastry program there. Then in 2006, when I graduated, I moved to Vegas for experience, for [a] job. Then I started at Bouchon and then just kind of worked my way up with different hotels around the city. I worked for the MGM company for almost 12 years and as a pastry chef and then started teaching.

I started teaching culinary classes. That's when I met Luis and I also was doing cakes on the side and wanted to always open my own thing, [and] just do custom cakes. So, and then the pandemic hit and I decided I'm just going to go full-blown, rebrand my cake business, and just do that from home and eventually opened a shop. Then I was found from one of the casting crews on Instagram. See if I'd be interested in the show and if I knew somebody who would want to come with me. So I ended up with this one. But I guess he was all for it. We were like, "Oh, might as well see what happens with it." Here we are, "Crime Scene Kitchen" champions.

Natalie Collins-Fish and Luis Flores share their favorite experience from Crime Scene Kitchen

Tell us about your experience on "Crime Scene Kitchen." What was your favorite thing about being on the show?

Luis: I think for me, [my] favorite part, at least for me being on the show is just actually seeing what it actually takes in order to make a show. Like how the size of production that it was and everything just kind of I was like, "Oh, wow." So much goes into this show just to make it what it is. We weren't expecting how big it was going to be. We didn't go in there with any expectations, it was just like, "Holy cow. There's actually a lot of people here." Just for me, I just enjoyed [it], especially because everything happened [in] quarantine and everything. So for me, it was actually really good to just start getting to talk to people, I guess you can say, which is weird.

Natalie: Human interaction.

Luis: Human interaction. Just getting to know people, everyone else that was in our group, kind of our group A, just starting to talk to people.

I don't know, it was just really awesome. Just getting to bake. We were in our element, it had been so long since we worked and baked together in a kitchen. So it was just good, getting back into the groove of things and then the plus the host and the judge, they were awesome. They were super, super awesome. I think Joel was the one that really made it very ... It's like, "Ooh, I wonder what kind of jokes he's going to say today, how to make us laugh and all that stuff."

Natalie: I would say probably my favorite part of all of it was just watching reactions from everybody. I always try to stay really humble about what we do and I know, we're good at what we do, but then watching everybody else. When we would bring out a dessert, we don't know what anybody else made. We didn't know how they were going to react to it. We had no idea if we got it right. Just the genuine reactions from everybody, whereas like, "Oh, we're actually pretty okay at this. I'll continue doing this after the show." Even just meeting everybody, we met so many people who just kept telling us, they can't believe how well we work together and how we're an inspiration to them. The other teams and everything. It was really cool, having the feedback from everybody else.

What was it like filming with Curtis Stone and Yolanda Gampp? And of course, Joel, he's so funny.

Luis: Right? I mean, for me it was a little nerve wracking because we had to present them food, like our baked goods and everything. They kind of had the standards, whatever we made was always up to them, whether they kept us along for the ride or not. So we had to make sure that we were giving them the best possible thing that we could give them, taste wise, look wise and everything. So it was awesome to kind of get to feed them. Then it was also, to see their reactions to stuff like, "Wow, this is really good." So it's kind of like that sense of accomplishment once you get those reactions from them. I was like, "Oh, okay. I'm in the right field. We got the right things done." So for me, it's a good, I feel good after that.

Natalie Collins-Fish and Luis Flores on their favorite bake during the show

Was there a bigger challenge you really enjoyed the most out of everything that you got to bake?

Natalie: Is the finale included? Because I feel like the finale for me was definitely the showpiece, going to the finale was for sure my bread and butter.

Luis: Because it was the one that we didn't have to hold back, literally didn't have a super strict guideline of a specific dessert to make. That we could [be] just like, "Here you go."

Natalie: We can finally do what we do and not try to match what's underneath the box, which was a struggle for me. I guess they didn't really show too much about it during the actual show. But filming, I had a big struggle because I wanted to do what I wanted to do and not what I was supposed to do. He always had to keep me in check a lot. Like, "No, that is not going to be on the dessert. They're not going to make five flowers out of chocolate and spray them with gold. They're just not going to do it." We had to learn. We definitely took a hard lesson in the first episode when we knew that it was a naked carrot cake. I was like, "That's not a showpiece. That can't be that." So we didn't make a carrot cake.

We probably would have won that round if we would have just stuck to it but I was like, "No, showpiece. Let's go big or go home, right?" So I made real vegetables in a basket instead. But yeah, that was, I mean definitely a stepping stone for us, where we had to learn where we could put our flare onto it and where we had to actually hold back and figure out like, "Okay, this is still a game. Nobody is going to be able to duplicate what my crazy brain is going to think up. So it will never be under that box. If we go that route, we're never going to win." So we definitely had to play the mind game for sure, [the] whole season.

How Luis Flores and Natalie Collins-Fish developed their winning strategy

When you were looking through the clues, did you have a strategy going into it?

Natalie: I'm terrible at this. I still say I'm terrible at it.

Luis: Natalie struggled a little bit. But I think for me, I set the plan up for us. I guess you can say. Whenever we walked into the "Crime Scene Kitchen," we just always split up because we cover a lot more ground when we're just all kind of spread out a little bit. Then we kind of came up also with a game plan is not to really talk about anything specific. We were just talking about everything that we saw, but any ideas that we had, we would wait until the actual, when we were in the kitchen baking to actually discuss it. Because once you would throw out one idea of like, "Oh, I think this is like a snickerdoodle." we only thought it was that. So that kind of deviated from our plan, I was like, "All right, well it's obviously not that it's something else." But that way ...

Natalie: Like the geode cake.

Luis: Like the geode cake. She got super excited with the geode cake. "It's a geode cake. It's a geode cake." I was like, "Are you sure?"

Natalie: Not a geode cake.

Luis: We tried to not discuss it while we were there, but I mean, it didn't help us that round. But at least we know now. Right? Cover ground, get everything possible. I think out of all the groups, I was the first one to actually look in the trash can and take stuff out of the trash cans. I was like, "I'm going in there." I was like, "I'm making sure that I get every single clue possible."

If you could give one piece of advice to future contestants, what would it be?

Luis: I would say for me, my advice is it doesn't really matter how good you are, unless you can figure out the clues. The clues are 100% the most difficult thing, especially when they throw in puzzles and you have to combine them one-on-one together and do all that. But for me, the clues are 100% more of the important part of getting that, in order to make what you can actually, what's going to come out in the confectionaters 3000.

Natalie: Yeah. I would say for me, the biggest piece of advice is stay calm. No matter what, something's going wrong, the minute that you start to fall apart, everything else will fall apart. I mean, we definitely had our challenges. I mean, Luis turned off the oven and we still ... I was like, "I can't believe that you didn't get axed." I was like, "What am I going to do? It's not going to fix anything." Me falling apart, getting mad or fighting. That's not going to fix anything. So fighting with your partner. You guys have to be on the same page and wasting time arguing, trying to figure out what you're going to make is just going to hold you back. I feel like you have to understand that you're a team and it's not one person and the other person. You have to work together and keep each other calm. If one person is unraveling, the other person has to be able to stay stable to even you out. Otherwise, you'll end up with a disaster.

Natalie Collins-Fish and Luis Flores were in disbelief when they won

How did it feel when you won?

Natalie: Just surreal. I feel like [I] still haven't processed all of it yet. I was pretty convinced that we hadn't won. So there's that.

Luis: For me, I was at a loss for words. I've never won anything. We would gamble together and I'd always play Keno and she would win hundreds and I'm over here losing every single thing possible. I was like, "Yes, I got a dollar. She's like, "That's it." So for me, it was just a complete surprise for me. Because I'm one of the people I go in there not expecting it, expecting the worst or not expecting it. If you get it, cool. Then I just, I mean, you'll find out, but just bawling, crying with emotion.

Natalie: Ugly crying.

Luis: I'm the emotional one out of the two of us. It definitely shows.

Natalie: I'm just sitting there like this. "Are you sure? Are you sure that's our name? Did you spell that right? That's not us?" I mean, it's definitely a surreal moment where I feel like even still in a few months, we're going to be like, "Did that really happen? I feel like it didn't actually happen."

Luis: Yeah. I don't think it's fully set in yet for me.

Natalie: We were on such a rollercoaster ride. I mean the whole time, we had our ups and downs and we had our personal issues and everything. Life happens, even if you're still on TV, you still have to deal with other things. So I feel like just being able to know that at the end of the day, it was worth it. Everything that we went through for it, just kind of makes it even more special.

The inspiration behind Luis Flores and Natalie Collins-Fish's winning cake

What was going through your brain when Yolanda was like, "Wait a second, I have to have a minute," after she tried your chocolate cake?

Luis: So I've always talked about this to any of my students that I've ever had. One of those best reactions that I love to see when feeding people is just those reactions where they just sink in their spine. They're just like, because normally when you're in kitchens, when you're serving food to guests, you don't ever see their reactions, the only time you ever hear from them is when they thought it was crap. Then they send it back to you and then the chefs are yelling at you because it's the worst thing ever. But when you can actually see it in their faces and they're like, "Oh my goodness." They're just sinking and just melting in this pile right there. For me, that's a definite sense of accomplishment right there. I don't know. It helps boost my ego. People already think I have a big ego when I actually don't. So I was like, "I need to take a little boost of confidence every now and then." So I will gladly take that.

Where did the idea for bananas foster filling come from?

Natalie: Well, we knew that we had to use caramel and we had to use chocolate cake. So in the crime scene, there were different flavors and we could pick however we wanted to use them. We just had to incorporate all the ingredients to the best of our ability. If we chose to only use three or four, one or two or whatever, but we decided to go big or go home. We really went crazy on that last cake. We knew that we had to use caramel and chocolate and that's just a very typical thing.

Luis: Plus, Natalie knew kind of going in when we're doing research, she knew that Yolanda likes, it was banana and chocolate. Banana and chocolate together. So we're like, "All right, how can we somehow bring those in together?" Banana and caramel go really good. I was like, "Oh, we could do banana fosters." I had to give TV a show. So I had to do a little flambe action and everything. We're all about the show.

Natalie: Yeah, we're all about the show.

Luis: We all want it flashier.

Natalie: I was just going to say, but definitely because I've been following Yolanda for a long time ... I think the first time I started following her, I had to make a human heart and I just Googled how to make a human heart cake, not knowing anything about [the] human heart or anything. Her video popped up and that's when I started, probably three, two and a half, or three years ago. So I've been following her for a while. Then when they told us that it was going to be her birthday cake. I was like, "Well, we have to make something that she's actually going to like, represent her." So that's why we went with the different flavors and then we wanted to make sure we include her favorite, but also the explosion cake that was more of her personality. There's like a little bit of everything to make it more personal and not just like, "Oh, here's a really pretty cake." Like, I mean, sure. We can make a really pretty cake, but when it's personal to you, that's what I do. I make custom cakes ... Do you want to put six different things of everybody's favorite thing on it? I can do that. It's whatever. Because it's more personal, that's where we went with it.

Was the slice of cake on top a nod to her big cake that looks like a slice of cake?

Natalie: Yeah, pretty much. We wanted her to have a candle to blow out. But just to feel like it's actually her birthday. A lot of times you don't. Even a birthday cake is not really a birthday cake anymore. I wanted it to be an actual party, if that makes [sense].

What's next for Luis Flores and Natalie Collins-Fish

Do you have any thoughts on where the prize money will go to or have you started working towards opening your own bakery?

Luis: All right. So we're going to take our time opening up just to make sure that we get all the details out, everything. Because that, we've talked about it before, where a lot of bakeries are businesses, restaurants, they open and they only really last [a] year if that. So we don't want to be that. We want to make sure we get all our T's squared, all our I's dotted, and all that.

Do you have anything else on the horizon for your baking career? Are you hoping to do more competitions or what's next?

Natalie: I mean, I'm sure some of the producers definitely said they wanted us back for other ones. I know we can't right now because we're, I think a year. But I mean, if I can win money for doing what I do, good, why not, right?

Luis: Can we alternate? Especially now that we know what to expect, at least when it comes to like reality TV baking show competitions then. So what actually goes into what it takes and all that stuff. Plus we went into it during COVID so now it should be easier. Knock on wood. Not the daily COVID testing.

Natalie: Quarantining.

Luis: Quarantining and all that stuff. So yeah, I feel like I'd be open for it.

Natalie: Well, I don't think we can separate though. I feel like we'd do it together as long as we can do it together. I don't think I want to go on by myself.

Keep up with the winning duo's soon-to-be bakery by following Natalie Collins-Fish at Cake Lyfe by Nattie J.