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Hi, all! As you probably know by now, Food Network is airing a series of seven Christmas Cookie Challenges this holiday season, all with a keen focus on our passion - cookie decorating! You can see the entire first episode, called Christmas Family Fun, here, along with upcoming airtimes of this episode and the others.

As if this wasn't exciting enough, at least five Cookie Connection members have competed in these challenges, and we've got the rare opportunity to talk with all of them about their experiences. On January 13 (10 am central), after the holiday rush has passed and we can all relax, we'll be hosting these daring ladies in a live chat covering topics from casting through to challenge prep and ultimately competing. We'll also discover what some of the winners plan to do with their $10,000 (!!) prizes.

The chat room is now open (here) for advance questions. Just click on the link and follow the instructions at the top of the chat room. Even if you can make the chat at the appointed time (by clicking on the same link, BTW), it's always nice to receive questions early so we can plan ahead and cover more ground during the live chat.

I hope to "see" you all there. In the meantime, please congratulate the contestants who will be joining us on January 13, and read more about them below.

Arlene Chua of @Chua Cookie

ArlenewithlogoArlene is a baking banker who juggles a full-time job as a treasury analyst for a private bank on Wall Street with her passion for midnight cookie decorating. Her colleagues are often her guinea pigs for taste-testing her new recipes. Arlene’s first experimentation with cookies came about a year and a half ago when she offered to help a colleague when he and his husband-to-be could not find appropriate wedding favors. She immediately created a prototype designed to match the invitation and was undaunted by fulfilling 500 cookies as her first order. Since the start, the idea of bespoke cookies appealed to Arlene - attention to the smallest details, belief in more is more, intricate piping work, and an uncanny eye for customization soon became her trademarks. While she remains primarily a hobbyist decorator, Arlene recently incorporated in order to sell her keepsake cookies. She also plans to teach local classes and offer private events and parties. As for her Food Network debut, Arlene reports, “The best parts were meeting my competitors and forming friendships with them, having my cookies tasted by top Food Network idols (like The Pioneer Woman), and getting to see behind the scenes of filming. The worst parts: the time constraints and not knowing what supplies or ingredients would be available.” To find out more about Arlene and her cookie passion, please visit her website, and Instagram and Facebook pages.

Episode 1, Christmas Family Fun, first aired on: November 6, 2017 (See the full episode and future airtimes here.)
Results: Made it to the final round!

Julia Perugini of Julia's Cookies (aka @Julia Perugini)

Juliawithlogo400 by 400Julia is 34 years old and has a home bakery called Julia’s Cookies. Julia started baking for family and friends about three years ago. Two years ago, she decided to stay at home to work, so she coud more easily take care of her family, and now she sells her cookies online, shipping them all across the United States. Julia also teaches cookie decorating classes to home bakers. About her experience on Food Network, Julia says, “Being on Food Network was amazing in general! I had a great time, and loved to get feedback from the chefs. The worst part was the stress of baking with limited time.” To learn more about Julia, please visit her on Instagram and Facebook.

Episode 6, Spice Up Your Christmas, first airing on: December 11, 2017 (See future airtimes here.)
Results: Mum’s the word for now!

Aime Pope of @ThePaintedPastry

AimeCroppedAime’s adventure in the world of cookie decorating began accidentally when a family member asked her to make cookies for an event. Although Aime always had a natural drive to create, cookies had never been on her radar. From the moment she whipped up her first batch of royal icing, Aime was hooked. After Aime launched a licensed bakery in 2014, her hobby rapidly transformed into a thriving business. Decorating cookies has brought new creative outlets, friendships, and opportunities to her life that she never imagined. She is honored to have had her work welcomed into so many people's milestone events, and is thrilled to see what's around the corner! As for her appearance on Food Network, Aime says, “My experience working with Food Network was amazing. From start to finish, the entire adventure was exhilarating, challenging, and rewarding. Imagining concepts, gathering and prepping ingredients, preparing dough, rolling and cutting, baking and cooling, decorating, assembling, and then plating in 90 minutes is a total marathon! My end results were nothing of perfection, but considering the time constraints and unique circumstances, I was proud of what I produced, especially my cookie puzzle in round two.” To catch up on more of Aime's cookie adventures, please visit her Facebook and Instagram pages.

Episode 1, Christmas Family Fun, first aired on: November 6, 2017 (See the full episode and future airtimes here.)
Results: $10,000 prize winner!

Nicole Silva of @Crumbles by Nicole

nicole pic with logoWhile an elementary school teacher, Nicole stumbled upon her baking adventure by accident when making cookies for her daughter’s third birthday party. Soon after, she founded Cookies for a Cure to help raise money for cancer research. This was the beginning of her cookie business dream. Thousands of cookies later, her dream became a reality when, in January of 2014, she started her home-based bakery, Crumbles by Nicole. Cookies had always been her specialty, but she quickly added other treats to the menu such as cakes, cupcakes, and cake pops. In 2015, Nicole competed on ABC's The Great Holiday Baking Show, where she was a finalist. After appearing on the show, her business exploded and, on November 12, 2016, she opened a brick-and-mortar shop, Crumbles Bakery, and retired from teaching. Now, the only teaching she does is at her bakery where she hosts baking classes, camps, and parties. To learn more about Nicole and her work, please visit her on Instagram.

Episode 2, Traditions Turned Trendy, first aired on: November 13, 2017 (See future airtimes here.)
Results: Another $10,000 prize winner!

Andrea Walters of Andy Kay's Cookies (aka @Andrea Walters)

Andrea Square with logoThree years ago, Andrea attended a local cookie decorating class and left frustrated. She became determined to master royal icing and beautiful sugar cookies. After countless hours of practice, blog reading, and tutorial watching, she gathered confidence in her skills, found her canvas for artistic expression, and ultimately launched Andy Kay’s Cookies. Andrea has also been blessed to teach at several cookie retreats around the midwest and loves meeting other cookie decorators. Regarding her experience on Food Network, she reports, “I had the absolute best time! It is Food Network after all! I really bonded with my fellow competitors and loved going through everything with them. The challenge pushed me out of my comfort zone, but I have no regrets. It was extremely fast and stressful, but so much fun competing head to head over cookies!” To learn more about Andrea, please check her out on Facebook and Instagram.

Episode 4, Santa's Sweet Spot, first airing on: November 20, 2017 (See future airtimes here.)
Results: Can’t say just yet!

Exciting, huh?! I know I've got a trillion questions to ask, and I bet you do too! So don't delay - jump on over to their chat room and enter your advance questions now! Or click on the same link at the time of the chat to tune in live!


Images (6)
  • Live Chat Banner: Photo Courtesy of Food Network; Graphic Design by Julia M Usher
  • Arlene Chua: Photo Courtesy of Arlene Chua
  • Julia Perugini: Photo Courtesy of Julia Perugini
  • Aime Pope: Photo Courtesy of Aime Pope
  • Nicole Silva: Photo Courtesy of Nicole Silva
  • Andrea Walters: Photo Courtesy of Andrea Walters
Last edited by Julia M. Usher
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