“The associate producer asked me why I loved Halloween…. I immediately started crying.”
Christina Ledesma, also known as “The Retro Cookie Lady” from Fremont, was certain she had blown her phone interview for the Food Network’s Halloween Cookie Challenge.
“The associate producer inquired as to why I enjoyed Halloween. “My response was influenced by all of my childhood memories with my mother,” Ledesma recalls. “I burst into tears right away.” My mother was a single parent, and seeing how much time and effort she put into the holidays made me appreciate her even more.”
That response was well received by the producer. Ledesma will compete for a $10,000 prize this Monday at 7 p.m. on the Halloween Cookie Challenge’s fifth episode of Season 2, “Halloween Stained Glass and Halloween Funhouse.” She’ll be making creepy cookie creations such as a 15-inch long haunted house and a translucent glasslike cookie. Her mother, husband, four daughters, and son will all be watching.
“My mom is very excited, to say the least,” she said. “And my nine-year-old daughter has been telling her teachers and principal about it.” ‘Sophia, you’ve got to stop because they’re probably sick of hearing about it!'”
Ledesma began baking shortly before the pandemic after seeing some nice cookies at a party and thinking to herself, “Hey, I can do this!” Her specialty is vanilla-sugar cookies with royal icing on top. Her customers have requested wedding cookies, zombie cookies, and Niners-themed cookies – “literally anything you can think of, I can design it,” she says.
When she isn’t baking, Ledesma is studying psychology at San Jose State University. Baking, it turns out, involves a lot of psychology.
“When I’m creating cookies, it’s extremely therapeutic to me,” she said. “It’s almost like when people play with their zen gardens, raking them and relaxing.” We learn about artistic therapy as psychology majors, which are activities that help us cope with everyday stresses. It’s been stressful lately with school, kids, and running a business – but in a good way, constructive stress.”
Ledesma never imagined she’d be on TV – “I’m my own worst critic” – but once on set, she had a great time. Her competitors were from Texas, Canada, and the Bay Area (Karl Fong aka The Pastry Ninja). She won’t say who won the cookie competition; instead, she says she’d do it again in a heartbeat.
“It was completely insane. Unreal. Even now, being on set and seeing all the techs, sound and lighting guys seems surreal. And (host) Duff Goldman as well. The only chance I wish I had taken was to hug him.”