BOSCOBEL - Many of us used the lockdown months of 2020 to try a new hobby. About 60 percent of us took up reading, cooking, gardening, or another craft to distract us during the pandemic, according to a survey conducted by Lending Tree, an online lending marketplace.
But how many of you can say you turned your Covid hobby into a national television appearance?
That’s the case for one Boscobel native who won a coveted spot on the Food Network’s popular Christmas Cookie Challenge reality bake-off competition—and the chance to win $10,000.
Gerryanne Bohn, a Bulldog who graduated in ’08, competes on Season 6, Episode 7, which airs Sunday, December 11 at 7 p.m. central. Titled “Christmas Then and Now,” the episode focuses on holiday traditions, as well as “3D cookie vehicles for getting around the North Pole.” Bohn is one of five contestants on the episode.
Trial and error
Bohn’s journey to the sweet side began with a YouTube obsession. “I’ve always watched flooding videos, and I’ve always wanted to try it,” she said.
“Flooding,” for the uninitiated, is when you use a piping bag with an egg-based royal icing to outline a cookie, then “flood” the outline with more icing—and as the thousands of YouTube videos attest, it is remarkably hypnotic to watch.
Eventually, watching wasn’t enough, however, and Bohn tried her hand at it.
“I was leaving my job,” said Bohn, who’s a certified teacher in special education “I wanted to give my co-workers a going away present. My idea was to make white cookies with a sad emoji in the middle of it. They looked terrible. They looked like egg yolks.”
Never one to give up easily, Bohn kept practicing after she moved back home to Boscobel in December 2019 to take a teaching position in the school district here. She and her husband moved in with Bohn’s mother temporarily while they sold their previous home. And of course, by the following spring, Bohn, like all of us, had some spare time on her hands.
“I was still teaching virtually, but in my free time, I was practicing baking.” When the world began to open up again, she found her cookies in high demand for birthdays, weddings, and other custom orders, as well as at the Boscobel Farmers Market.
“Being in a small town, the connections from knowing everybody really helped. Word spread quicker, and everyone knew who I was,” she said.
Her cottage business, which she called Driftless Cookies, took off quickly, not only because of these real-life connections and her profuse social media presence, but also because her work (documented on her website and Instagram pages) is truly spectacular—both intricate and surprising.
By 2021, Bohn and her husband had found their dream home on San Juan Island off the coast of Washington state. (The locale reminded them of their beloved Lake Superior—but without the harsh winters.)
Back in Boscobel for the holidays, she and her family were watching the Food Network’s Christmas Cookie Challenge, and her mother-in-law popped the obvious question:
“She said, ‘Would you ever do that,’ and I said, ‘No way,’” Bohn reported. “I’m a perfectionist,” she explained. “I can’t risk having people see my cookies look like a mess. And at the time, I didn’t have the experience. I only had one recipe.”
Food Network had a different idea. Within a month of that conversation, a network recruiter messaged Bohn on Instagram encouraging her to apply for the competition.
“I screenshotted my husband with an LOL, but he said, ‘You have to do this. You have to. Even if you don’t win, it’ll be a ton of exposure. And when is the Food Network ever going to reach out to you again?’ Him just saying that, I’m like, you’re right, but I don’t want to.”
Her husband ultimately won the argument—but it wasn’t until after a long interview process, which included a baking experiment, that the network gave her the green light. “It was such a blur,” Bohn said. “I spent the mean time experimenting with different recipes and memorizing them just in case.”
The network filmed the episode in three days at the end of this March. Bohn is not allowed to discuss any details of the show (including whether she won the $10,000 first prize), but she did say she got along well with the other contestants, who included a couple of professional bakers, as well as a home-baking mom and another woman who, like Bohn, bakes professionally on the side.
For Bohn, the exhaustion she felt after months of preparation gave way to excitement and enthusiasm when it came time to go on camera.
“I used to be a dancer. When I would get to the performance, it’s like, ‘It’s game time, let’s go. Let’s do this.’ I use my adrenalin to help me. I’m nervous, but I’m ready,” she explained. Her work with special education students also prepped her for the pressure. “Special ed is constantly the unknown and trying to make decisions on the fly.”
In the studio, filming took place with a ring of kitchens around the outside, and a “no-man’s land” of cameras and crews at the center of the ring. “Camera crews were everywhere,” Bohn remembered. “I didn’t notice it really. I definitely zoned out and focused on what was in front of me. I was just totally in the zone.”
Win or lose (we’ll find out in a couple weeks), such a high-profile appearance is bound to shake up Bohn’s fortunes as a baker—but she’s still undecided about what happens next in her career.
“I’ve daydreamed about only having a cookie business, but I’m pretty happy doing both jobs,” she said. “People ask me all the time will I ever go full time with cookies? I don’t know the answer. I like the balance right now. Just running a cookie business would be a risk—like, can you make it? This way I can say ‘no,’ and pick and choose what I do.”Whatever she decides, it’s safe to say that her newfound television fame will sweeten the path before her.