If you missed my debut on the Food Network Holiday Baking Championship: Gingerbread Showdown, you missed a really great episode! This isn’t your everyday, ordinary holiday cooking TV show. These three teams are made of ARTISTS!! They’re simply using food as their canvas. I had a blast watching them all create. Their processes made me think about what I do in my careers as an HGTV personality and interior designer. Here are a few of my takeaways from Episode 1 of this fun Food Network show.

Holiday Cooking with Heart

The teams were tasked with creating snow globe scenes that depicted personal, fond holiday memories. Let me tell you: these bakers did NOT disappoint! Molli’s design focused on her geographical transition from Arizona to New York City. She and Sarah created two gorgeous cityscapes brought together by the cutest family station wagon between them. From string light-decorated cacti to sights of landmark skyscrapers and Rockefeller Center traditions, Molli’s memories were a gingerbread vision. Linda and Cheryl followed suit with their hometown memories gingerbread layout. Rotating sledding and ice-skating activities accented a splendid scene of country homes and decorated trees. The hardwood gingerbread floors? Amazing! Sebastian was not to be outdone, though! He and Kristen designed a colorful Peruvian scene depicting Sebastian’s childhood and heritage. From the two-story house to the stunning tree and star-holding child, Sebastian and Kristen baked with gingerbread and heart—and it definitely showed.

Though all of the scenes were brilliantly designed and executed, what really made them unique was their connection to each baking artist. I could tell they sincerely drew inspiration from a place in their minds that shaped who they are now. I love that, both as a holiday baking show judge and an interior designer. What I do with design aligns with this week’s baking mission. Décor in a home doesn’t mean as much if it doesn’t cater to the client’s life, needs, desires, and internal heartbeat. I focus on customization in practically all my projects because the final presentation absolutely MUST resonate personally with each individual. It makes a difference every time. These bakers tailored their gifts to a personal connection that mattered. That’s needed to win this competition, and it’s needed to win in interior design!

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

Baking with a Backup Plan

One of the most important things I’ve learned about building anything is to have a solid backup plan. It’s the root of my 6P philosophy: prior proper planning prevents poor performance. In other words, Murphy’s Law is always in effect (even on Food Network!), so you should always consider and account for failures. They will come—trust me. Sebastian and Kristen learned that the hard way in this episode. Because of the time it takes to make, mold and cook gingerbread, the bakers were given the theme early and allowed to make their gingerbread pieces and ship them to set. Unfortunately, not all delivery people care about a “Fragile” sticker. The odds of all gingerbread pieces arriving broken was indeed slim to none. Thank goodness for Kardea’s help tracking down the third box that didn’t show! She was right: faith was the key!

Molli had my heart with her landscape design training and meticulous attention to detail. She proved that, even with the best plans and intentions, something can go wrong. My heart couldn’t take it when I saw the top of her gingerbread skyscraper sliding down the base! I think all of us judges were unsure if it would stay. There was no choice but to do damage control in the moment. Maybe had there been some forethought regarding what to do “in case [X] happens,” the rebound could have been quicker. It happens to us all, but that’s precisely how I know we can all prevent that from happening, both in our lives and our professions.

Baking With an Innovative Touch

One of the best parts of watching these amazing “ginger-breaders” work was realizing how differently we all translate the same concept. This week’s Food Network Holiday Baking Championship twist was to incorporate coconut into the design somehow. Now, that may not sound like the toughest task. But creating these gingerbread masterpieces truly relies on the bakers’ ability to think outside the box and use their skills in unique ways. Each of them definitely delivered on that! Molli and Sarah came up with an unusual (and might I add, delicious) combination and baked a horchata coconut cake. I was wowed by Linda and Sarah’s Coconut Amaretto Cherry Shortbread Tree! Nacho couldn’t have put it better when he described the sweet confection as a “party of flavors.” Unfortunately, the creative little trees fell short on coconut essence. Sebastian and Kristen created the most adorable polar bear coconut cream puffs. They. Were. Delectable!

As I watched each team’s take on the twist, I realized that baking and designing share something really important to each trade: innovation. We have to be able to take something others might see as ordinary and make it incredible. I’ve lost count of how many times someone has asked me why I enjoy designing kitchens. The reason has always felt simple to me. I love taking a space and tailoring it exactly to my client’s needs in ways they never thought possible. Most people picture a kitchen, and they think about the room someone will cook or eat in. When I begin the process of designing a kitchen, I envision the person or family who will spend time there along with how they will best use the space.

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

Baking Championship and Creativity Galore!

Will a family who juices frequently benefit from a mini beverage fridge to store fresh juices? Does the chef need a range to be a certain number of feet away from other appliances? I consider that a family with multiple school-aged children might appreciate an oversized kitchen island that could multi-purpose as a homework station after school. Everything from configuration to material choice comes into play when I’m creating a space I hope my client will love. Kitchens aren’t just kitchens to me. They are spaces that have the capacity to enhance a person’s life and improve their ability to function. Baking and cooking, especially in the way these teams did on the show, required looking at an element in exceptional ways. Coconut creations can be as varied as snowflakes, and these talented individuals definitely proved that with their sweet formulations.

I loved judging this week’s Food Network Holiday Baking Championship: Gingerbread Showdown! I’m still in shock seeing all the extraordinary ways gingerbread can be used to create amazing designs! I have gained a new appreciation for architecture and sweet treats! What was your favorite part? Were you surprised by the winners? Tune in next week for another dose of holiday cheer and deliciousness!

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