The holiday season is a busy time for all cookie artists — aka “cookies” — and that includes Gerryanne Bohn, of Friday Harbor, who works as a special education middle school teacher by day and sugar-cookie maker by night.
“I’m teaching during the day, running home cooking until 11 at night and forcing myself to go to bed at 11 because I need sleep in order to teach,” Bohn says.
Add to that busy schedule taking a break to watch herself compete on an episode of Food Network’s “Christmas Cookie Challenge” that premieres at 8 pm Sunday, Dec. 11, a day after Bohn sells her Driftless Cookies at Friday Harbor’s Old-Fashioned Holiday Market at Brickworks Events Center, 10 am-3 pm Saturday, Dec. 10.
The ingredients for her Food Network debut started coming together a year ago, although at the time she didn’t know it. Bohn was back in Wisconsin where she grew up, watching 2021’s edition of “Christmas Cookie Challenge” with her mother-in-law, who asked, “Would you ever want to do that?”
“No way,” Bohn replied. “They don’t give the cookies enough time. Icing takes at least 12 hours to harden, so you’re making structures with things that are wet and then you need multiple recipes and right now I only have one recipe. I’m a perfectionist, I just don’t think I would feel comfortable doing that.”
A month later, a Food Network producer contacted Bohn via Bohn’s cookie picture-filled Instagram account, urging her to apply to be on the show. Bohn demurred, but her husband convinced her it was an opportunity she shouldn’t pass up. An application and multiple interviews/auditions later, she was cast with filming set for three days in Knoxville, Tennessee, in late March/early April 2022.
“Then I just spent the next months preparing, trying to figure out different recipes and practice structure things because usually the second round with the contest is always some type of structure,” Bohn says. “It’s like preparing for the unknown. Practice everything, you never know what you’re gonna get.”
Bohn is a recent transplant to the Pacific Northwest. And she’s pretty new to cookie-making, too.
Bohn and her husband first visited San Juan Island in October 2019. On a second visit in August 2020, Bohn floated the idea of moving to Friday Harbor from Columbus, Wisconsin, which they did in 2021 after Bohn landed a job with the school district.
Bohn started making cookies after his first trip to Washington state in 2019. Always crafty, Bohn got cookie-making tips from a friend and was mesmerized by “flooding” videos — videos of people icing cookies.
“They’re just really appealing and satisfying to watch and they calm you a little,” Bohn says. “You can probably consider it ASMR.”
After co-workers bought some of her cookies at Christmas 2019, Bohn decided to start her Driftless Cookies business, named after Wisconsin’s driftless region near where she grew up. She sells cookie orders through her website, driftlesscookies.com. (Driftless has no brick-and-mortar storefront.)
“I always had in my mind I could start a business and sell cookies if I turned out to be good at it,” Bohn says. “As a teacher, I like to find any extra ways to make money. Gotta pay for my vacations and stuff.”
So far, her largest order was for 200 cookies for a San Juan Island wedding.
On the “Christmas Cookie Challenge,” Bohn, 33, is up against four other cookie makers competing for the $10,000 grand prize.
“The craziest thing is just walking into a kitchen that isn’t your own,” Bohn says of filming the Food Network show. “You can prepare and make as many cookies as you want in your own home. But when you walk into an environment that is completely different and has different tools, it’s scary and it puts you off right away.”
Even something as simple as a mixer that operates a little differently can pose a challenge.
“With my stand mixer, the bowl just twists off where the one that they had pops off,” Bohn says. “I don’t know if they’ll show it but I had so many difficulties popping off the bowl from the stand. There was, like, five minutes at one point where I was trying to yank it and I’m pretty sure my camera crew was like, ‘What on earth is she doing?’ And I’m like, ‘I just need a man with muscles right now.’ ”
It’s a pretty safe bet that moment will make the final cut.