Exclusive Interview With Santa’s BFF At The Food Network

Printed from: http://newbostonpost.com/2017/12/22/exclusive-interview-with-santas-bff-at-the-food-network/

Amie Pope of Beverly, Massachusetts won the Food Network’s Christmas Cookie Challenge by rolling love and favorite holiday memories into her dough. A two-tiered competition began with five talented bakers from around the country vying to win the grand-prize of ten thousand dollars. 

Mixing, baking, and decorating countless trays of cookies, Amie moved like a Ninja around her home-kitchen as she explained her unexpected path to the Food Network special. Out of a summer blue sky producers of the Christmas Cookie Challenge contacted Amie after discovering her Instagram page The Painted Pastry. A series of telephone calls were followed by Skype interviews and family photo sharing before she was flown to New Orleans last August. Armed with a few winter outfits and memorized recipes, Amie said she didn’t know what to anticipate in Louisiana but was eager to compete in the delicious day of Christmastime holiday decorating.

With other contestants Amie was shuttled from the airport to a nearby hotel before Food Network production began early the next morning. Using air-conditioned trailers as on-location dressing rooms, contestants walked into an airplane-hanger-size studio to film their special show. Surrounded by more than 100 cameras, the Christmas Cookie Challenge stage was set with a colorful pantry, cooking stations, and a judges’ table.

The first challenge was to make two distinctly different Christmas-tree cookies in 90 minutes. Adding to the test, one tree needed to be 3-D. Necessity being the mother of invention, the mother of three frosted together three wobbly cookies that stood up to the challenge adequately. Inspired by a sweet family tradition, Amie’s other cookie transformed a dough-ball into a postcard-size rectangle of royal icing depicting an oversized Christmas tree tied to the roof of an old-fashioned red Rambler. As she explained to Food Network judges Ree Drummond, Dan Langan, and Aarti Sequeira, the Christmas holiday season doesn’t start for her little boys (ages 3, 6, and 8) until one of them spies a Christmas tree mounted on top of a car.

Not only was the red Rambler cookie delicious, it was flooded with color and expertly decorated with details that told a sentimental story that melted the judges’ hearts.  Amie advanced to the second heat of the competition, with two other contestants.

In the final round the competitors were given two hours to create a giant puzzle cookie inspired by a Christmas carol of the baker’s choice. Chugging a nuked mug of coffee as she outlined more home-kitchen cookies, Amie said she knew in an instant she wanted to design something during the competition that honored her dad’s all-time favorite carol, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Amie’s dad is a longtime member of the choir of Middleton Congregational Church, where he plays guitar and sings, using music as an expression of his abiding faith.

Without knowing why, Amie fortuitously sketched a circular design onto a pad of paper before cutting gingerbread dough into form. In the center of a nine-piece puzzle she imagined an angel with long flowing hair surrounded by a midnight-blue celestial sky twinkling with stars and words of inspiration:  Adore, Christmas, Joyful, Mercy, and Peace. As the other competitors rushed to make sense of their puzzles, Amie took setbacks in stride, focusing quietly on details of her master plan.

Even before leaving from Logan Airport she was determined to give her best effort to the challenge, be gracious to the other competitors, and — win or lose — be grateful for the experience. As it happens, she won.

Since winning the Christmas Cookie Challenge Amie continues to imagine designs for every occasion, sometimes decorating as many as one hundred cookies in a day. She says standing on one foot helps her to channel the artistic spirit she calls a family gift. 

Amie, with her husband Alex, who works in aerospace defense, doesn’t know what will happen next with this very unexpected cookie-baking business opportunity. They plan to stay focused on their faith and family and are eager to see what hard work and a creative spirit will bring to them next.

About 97,500 people follow Amie Pope on Instagram as thepaintedpastry, where she sells cookies and arranges individual and group cookie-decorating classes.

To watch the Food Network competition, click here.

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