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My Food Network Experience

Dec 5, 2018 | Cookie Decorating Resources, Small Business | 7 comments

I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of competing on Food Network’s Christmas Cookie Challenge – Season 2 Episode 5, which originally aired December 3, 2018.  A casting director approached me after seeing my work on the internet and encouraged me to apply. Lesson #1 — you miss 100% of the opportunities you don’t take. So apprehension, fear, lack of confidence aside, I went for it. After a series of Skype interviews, I was selected to compete! If you are in a similar situation, I encourage you to stop thinking about the “buts”, and just go for it.  Overall, the experience was incredible. Terrifying, anxiety ridden and super stressful but 10/10 would do it again. Despite having been on Sugar Rush S1E1, being filmed is not my forte. Having cameras on you the entire time and tons of people there, distractions, along with the challenging time constraints, is nerve wrecking.  Everyone who gets on the show is amazing. Full stop. Please process this. Some people do not have the perspective to be aware of this fact. Keep this in mind as you read this.  I’ve gotten reactions from people who have watched episodes and were surprised by the final product– it wasn’t the most beautiful thing in the world– but guess what? NO ONE is doing their best on the show, and the show is not a full representation of skills or product quality. How you react to total change in environment/equipment, tons of people, being watched, under (crazy) time constraints are all contributing factors to success. The panic/distraction is prevalent throughout and that clock seems to move faster than normal. The challenges are very, very real.  We filmed in the middle of the year– so it was super bizarre to be in the Xmas spirit in the heat of summer — and it was also so hard to NOT talk about it !!!

 

Lisa He with Food Network Host Eddie Jackson – 2018For Round 1, I worked on a fluffy vanilla spiced sugar cookie base, with a snowflake theme. I used a variety of techniques for my 6 cookies of various sizing, including airbrush, different piping, isomalt and more. I made a cleaner version of my snowflakes from the show, which will be at our local seasonal pop ups this year (2018).

Vanilla Spice Sugar Cookies by Borderlands Bakery

For my second round, I decided to work on a pop up Christmas Cookie Village. I recreated that concept below – thank you to Lucie for helping me photoshop a beautiful background into it!

 

Borderlands Bakery – Christmas Cookie Village Recreation 2018I opened up my Instagram to receive questions from YOU about the show.. I’ve summarized the most popular questions below, and answered what I am allowed to… some are a little repeat of the summary above … 

  • How much did they tell us about the challenges ahead of time? Were things rigged? Did we really get the amount of time shown?
    • The guidance provided pre-show was VERY general. We had to do a lot of on-the-fly thinking and had full creative choice to do literally whatever we desired, make whatever we want. Thinking on your feet under extreme pressure is advantageous. The time limits are very real. Yes– we only got that amount of time to do everything. Again, no one is at their best under these circumstances but that’s part of the competition!
  •  
  • How did I get on the show?
    • Someone who worked for the show found me on social media and encouraged me to apply. So I sent in an application. A series of interviews later, I was selected to participate. I can say that this is a serious process and the people selected are all very talented! Google around for “XXX show casting application” if you want to apply to see if anything pops up
  •  
  • Where was filming?
    • Southern California
  •  
  • Who did my hair/makeup?
    • I did part of it when I got in, but they put the final touches on 🙂
  •  
  • Would I do this again?
    • While I don’t actively seek TV opportunities (I literally cannot be not-me… and I’m not a dramatic person so I’m not “entertaining” to watch.. I’m better for teaching things)— if something else comes up I would definitely go for it! And so should you
  • Was it scripted?
    • No. But obviously you get asked questions which you answer or respond to, or react to, or do something about.
  • What did I do with the $10,000?
    • Giving it to my parents. They were scammed out of their life’s savings earlier in the year.

 Closing words:Everyone on the show is a complex, highly talented and multifaceted human being; it’s very hard to capture that on a 40 minute show! When watching, keep in mind that this is entertainment first, and that it captures only part of the story.  Housekeeping:The recipe I used for Round 1 is the spice version of the fluffy sugar cookie HERE.The recipe I used for Round 2 is my original lemon-vanilla bean , but I modified it by substituting the lemon zest for zest of a large orange and adding 1 TSP cardamom.The recipe I used for Round 2’s shortbread is HERE (FREE) — I substituted 45 grams of flour for almond flour, added 3 TBPS toasted sesame seeds and used an almond flavored royal icing. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my experience!


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7 Comments

  1. Tyler Reed

    So kinda random question but above you mention your ingredients by weight instead of measurement. I’ve been wondering for sometime now – is weighing better then measuring when it comes to baking?

    Reply
  2. Anita

    Hi Lisa! Huge fan!! I had a quick question, are you allowed to take your recipes onto the show or have any reference sheet at all, thank you!

    Reply
    • Lisa He

      This falls under NDA category so I can’t tell you according to my contract, however, it’s good to have your go to recipes memorized as good practice 🙂

      Reply
  3. Ed

    New to baking, most recipes call for the dough to be refrigerated for 1-2 hours. How do the contestants bake in such a short of time frame?

    Reply
    • Lisa He

      Chilling makes it easier to work with the dough. We have blast freezers at the competition. Takes a few minutes to get to the consistency I need 🙂

      Reply
      • Ed

        Thank you!

        Reply

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