This week I've got an unconventional and very exciting Saturday Spotlight for you - the announcement of the winners in the 2014 Cookiers' Choice Awards!
After a long couple of weeks of serious deliberation, our panel of esteemed Cookiers' Choice Awards judges has reached a final verdict. To arrive at the winners, each judge painstakingly reviewed the finalists' photo and video portfolios, websites, product offerings, and other cookie-related activities, and then independently evaluated each candidate across several selection criteria specifically tailored to each of the awards. Believe me, this was no small feat! I couldn't be more impressed with the rigor and thoughtfulness applied to this process. So first, a huge thank you to our judges for taking on this most difficult task.
Second, a hearty congrats again to all of the finalists! They are an immensely talented lot that, day in and day out, sets the cookie "bar" (so to speak) quite high! Thank you all for being such bountiful sources of inspiration throughout 2014, each in your own unique way.
Third (so sorry, I love to build suspense!), a quick word about what the winners will receive to commemorate their accomplishments. Thanks to Karen's Cookies, each winner will receive a $100 gift certificate to be applied to purchases on Karen and Mike's wonderful cookie site. (Pretty great, eh?) Also, courtesy of Cookie Connection, each winner will be honored with this elegant crystal vase, custom-engraved to mark her particular accomplishment (or to double as a personalized cookie jar)!
And one last reminder! The Cookiers' Choice Awards recognize winners in four different categories: Cookier, Cookie Educator, Cookie Innovator, and Cookie Philanthropist of the Year. The first two categories were judged, as I described above, whereas the winners in the latter two categories were determined by this community's popular vote during the nominations process. In each of those categories, one person received such an overwhelmingly large number of nominations that I decided to declare no finalists - just the one very deserving winner who will be announced momentarily.
So without further ado, it is my great pleasure to introduce the 2014 Cookiers' Choice Awards winners, along with select remarks from our judges about what set these cookiers apart.
2014 Cookier of the Year: Sandra "Sandie" Beltran of You Can Call Me Sweetie
"Sandra WOWs me with every set she makes. She takes on a wide spectrum of themes, from baby showers and characters to logos and tea party sets. Her sets are unique in the industry, full of color, and always exciting. She literally brings each cookie to life! There are never 'filler' cookies in her sets; all cookies are loaded with detail. She captivates me with her mastery of fondant, stenciling, SugarVeil work, handpainting, and molds."
"In Sandra's work, I see an incredible development of talent over the course of the year. Her range of style and creativity is impressive, especially given the challenge of artistic cookie-ing in a commercial market. Her mastery of many skills, from painting and intricate piping to modeling with fondant and even royal icing carving, combined with her breadth of output and number of 'wow' moments give her my vote for Cookier of the Year."
2014 Cookie Educator of the Year: Amber Spiegel of SweetAmbs
"Amber gets my vote because of her broad spectrum of teaching methods. Not only does she have a very popular YouTube channel with many subscribers, but she offers classes in New York, and private classes if you cannot attend a group class! And now she is on Craftsy! Amber’s tutorials on YouTube are very well done, clear, and full of innovative techniques. She also offers a wide variety of tutorials that appeal to many people and skill levels."
"Amber deserves this award not only because of the incredibly high caliber of work that she teaches, but because she generously reaches out to hundreds of thousands of people in so many different ways. There's her immensely popular YouTube channel, her pay-to-view videos, her blog, her in-person classes both in New York and across the globe . . . and now a Craftsy course and forthcoming book. She's a veritable teaching machine!"
2014 Cookie Innovator of the Year: Ginny McCormick-Levack of Creative Cookier
"I think the Stencil Genie by the Creative Cookier was the innovation of the year. This product transformed the way we stencil, both using the airbrush and royal icing, forever eliminating that need for a third hand. This product was a genius invention."
"Why Ginny? Two words: Stencil Genie! But let's not forget the many other ways she's connected us and enhanced our cookie lives this year through creative product and event innovations like Cookie Rehab Retreats, Cookie Cruise, and Cookie Cutter Club memberships."
2014 Cookie Philanthropist of the Year: Jill Wettstein of Jill FCS
"Jill FCS! For organizing the GO BO Foundation bake sale . . . $25,000 raised this year for pediatric cancer research. Need I say more?!"
"Jill is the epitome of generosity and selflessness in our industry . . .
She has brought both cookier and non-cookier together through her GO BO Foundation bake sale for multiple years. Watching it blossom has been so heartwarming."
Well, that wraps up our 2014 Cookiers' Choice Awards. What an immensely talented set of cookiers! Once again, here's to our winners, finalists, and judges - and to another prosperous year of cookie-ing ahead!