I have been thoroughly enjoying my time on the Food Network Holiday Baking Championship: Gingerbread Edition! Each of the teams continues to shine and showcase the best of their pastry passions week after week. There hasn’t been a week yet that I haven’t walked away astounded! With this week’s “Dreaming of a Bright Christmas” theme, I feel like I literally saw light bulbs going off with these pastry chefs! I may not know my way around the kitchen like they do, but they highlighted so many principles that are staples in my interior design business.

Judge Breegan Jane, as seen on Holiday Baking Championship Gingerbread Showdown, Season 1.

Planning and Baking: Like Hand in Glove

If you have been following the Food Network show each week, you know the teams get the theme before they come to the competition. It’s one of the first things you notice when you watch – they already have gingerbread made and ready. HGTV knew the time constraints participants would have, as it takes a bit of time to make gingerbread. This focus on preparation and planning is so key in starting the competition off right.

Leslie and Randi had a clear vision for their “Artsy Christmas Lodge.” They wanted to incorporate  Christmas colors in their scene, so they opted for traditional red and green. But I love that they used coloring with alcohol! The addition of alcohol allowed the colors to dry more quickly and not ruin the gingerbread. Any stitch in time with these competitions helps tremendously when you only have 10 hours to complete a gingerbread scene! Daniel and Marla were no different in their initial baking plans for the “Christmas Gingerbread Greenhouse.” Daniel knew to focus on the intricate piping work for his gingerbread scene. This would allow him time to build the actual house. He also set to stand all of the bottom panels of his house upright first before working on his second floor. His gingerbread pieces were extremely fragile, so this planning was pivotal to his build success.

I have a mantra that I mentioned in episode one of Food Network Gingerbread Showdown: prior proper planning prevents poor performance. The wisdom of that continued to ring true in this episode. In my business I always ask myself what would happen if something I ordered was damaged on arrival? What would happen if a client didn’t like a chance I took with a design element? Instead of simply hoping for the best, I make sure I have reasonable, achievable plans to answer those questions to prepare for the possibility of failure. All of the contestants did that, and their final presentations were better for it.

Judge Breegan Jane visits Leslie and Randi’s station to check in on their progress and see what they plan to do, as seen on Holiday Baking Championship Gingerbread Showdown, Season 1.

There’s No “Can’t” in Culinary!

Have you ever been to a gingerbread contest with master gingerbreaders??? Let me tell you, week after week I never cease to be amazed! The teams dream up ideas and somehow they find ways to construct edible treasures that look like they come straight out of fairytales. Christina and Ana’s “dreaming Alex” slept in a bed tucked in with a cozy blanket. When we went over to take a closer look at their creation, we were all convinced that the blanket was their non-edible component. I mean, did you see it? It looked like fabric! Imagine our surprise when we learned it was in fact edible! Christina and Ana made the blanket out of wafer paper and gelatin. It’s a process that takes hours and hours to complete, but the result is perfection!

Daniel and Marla impressed all the judges with their realistic windows made from gelatin sheets! I couldn’t believe how beautiful they were. They gave the house such a modern look. Daniel wanted the light to shine through, and boy did it ever! I watched idea after idea take shape as the teams assembled their houses. These Food Network challenges reminded me of a parallel concept in interior design.

Desserts and Design: The Common Denominator

I often tell people that being an interior designer is like being an artist, a magician and a therapist all at the same time. I say that because the process of creating a home can require designers to use their creative side to come up with ideas, their emotional intelligence to tap into what the client needs and feels, and a little bit of magic to pull everything together by a deadline, lol. I’m regularly faced with taking a client’s desire that feels impossible and making it come to fruition. I use innovative thinking combined with a healthy dose of perseverance to accomplish these goals.

Say a client has a modest space, but they want it to feel cavernous. This is the time to pull out all my tips and tricks to give a room a spacious feeling. So whether it’s knocking a wall down, choosing a paint color to brighten the space or changing the furniture configuration to give way to a light and airy feeling, I am always willing to go the extra mile to ensure the effect is achieved. Baking and designing both demand limitless imagination and a ton of courage. I see a lot of those qualities each week in these teams. I see that same quality in myself when I’m doing what I love most: designing!

Judge Breegan Jane, as seen on Holiday Baking Championship Gingerbread Showdown, Season 1.

Varying Takes on the Baking Twist

Jesse Palmer has a way of throwing a little surprise in participants’ baking plans each week, and this week it involved creating a dessert with pâte à choux. The natural choice for all the teams was to create snowmen for the dessert! Christina and Ana were the first to get started, though, so the other teams switched gears. As the theme focused on a “bright Christmas,” Leslie and Randi went with creating pâte à choux light bulbs. Daniel and Marla crafted Christmas trees from the pastry dough and used spun sugar to decorate it. Though the texture of the spun sugar didn’t make the tasting experience what we judges wanted, it was a creative take!

So, the twist portion of the program came with its own additional twist! I relate to this in so many ways as a designer. I draw inspiration from  everywhere, so I’m always jotting concepts down to try out as soon as I have the time. Creative people know that what you picture in your head isn’t always how the tangible product emerges when you’re finished with it. That can be both a good and bad thing.

One of my favorite metals to design with is brass. It instantly elevates any space. The challenging part about working with this metal is that it comes in a variety of shades. If I’m designing a bathroom with a golden faucet and handles and I want my light fixtures to match, I often have to go back to the drawing board several times before each component is a perfect match. I’ve learned to order samples to avoid this problem, but it isn’t always a sure thing. Sometimes the idea I started with gets ditched in favor of a newer scheme. While it can be tough to let go of the original plan, flexibility in design has always served me well.

Lessons from the Kitchen

The teams benefitted from their ability to pivot when necessary to create one-of-a-kind gingerbread designs. Mistakes and issues happen, and the best laid plans often don’t work out as planned. But knowing this—and preparing for it—will almost always lead to less stress and inevitable success. That’s a lesson that goes beyond cooking and designing, don’t you think?

Did you watch this week’s episode of Food Network Holiday Baking Championship: Gingerbread Showdown? Which was your favorite gingerbread house? Let me know in the comments!

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