Jonah Gershon, a Hall High School graduate now a junior at Cornell, was chosen as one of the participants for the Food Network Christmas Cookie Challenge.
By Ronni Newton
Jonah Gershon isn’t exactly sure how he ended up a contestant on the Food Network’s Christmas Cookie Challenge, but the experience is something he will never forget.
“Prior to going on the show I had decorated cookies maybe four times in my life,” said Gershon, a West Hartford native and 2020 Hall High School graduate who is currently a junior at the Cornell Nolan School of Hotel Administration. He does have experience baking and cake decorating, however, and had lots of food-related photos on his Instagram account (@jonahgershon).
“Someone messaged me on Instagram and asked if I wanted to apply,” he said. He went through three rounds – an application, an interview with a recruiter, and then an interview directly with representatives from the Food Network – before he was chosen.
During that time, he spent a lot of time working on his cookie-decorating skills, and the photos he shared on social media led to some side jobs baking cookies for events, including a batch of 200 specialty cookies for a bar mitzvah.
Season 6, Episode 4, which included Gershon and four others, was taped back in March, at Discovery Network’s Knoxville studios. It will air on Sunday, Dec. 4, at 8 p.m. on the Food Network.
“They flew us out there for the weekend,” Gershon said. The other contestants were accomplished cookie bakers, he said, doing it for a full-time job. While he hadn’t met them in advance, he did check out their Instagram accounts, which were very impressive.
The episode, entitled “Our Better Angels,” is described as follows: “Five talented cookie makers reveal who’s on Santa’s list by creating one cookie that shows someone doing a good deed and another with someone being naughty! Hosts Ree Drummond and Eddie Jackson decide who ends up on Santa’s good side and which naughty cookie-maker goes home. In round two, the cookiers create the nicest displays of all – cookie angel figurines. They’ll have to use good spirits in their festive figurines, like cinnamon schnapps, mezcal, honey liqueur and white chocolate liqueur. When the heavens clear, only one cookie maker will emerge with the $10,000 prize and the title of Christmas Cookie Champion.”
Gershon is sworn to secrecy about how he did in the competition, and the results won’t be made public until after the show airs on Sunday night.
“It was very cool to see how they film the show. I came in never really having decorated cookies before, so I just wanted to have fun,” Gershon said. The appearance, as well as the taste of the cookies, was taken into consideration.
Gershon appeared in a previous TV contest back when he was a student at Hall. He was a member of the “As Schools Match Wits” team that competed in the high school quiz bowl hosted by WGBY. “This was a very different competition,” he said.
Gershon spent the summer of 2021 working with Kevin Masse at Small State Provisions in West Hartford, where he made a lot of scones as well as his special “Chocolate Babka.” He really enjoyed learning the operations of a bakery on a larger scale, and said it was a great experience working with Masse.
He’s still undecided about his future career, and said he is minoring in computer science and is very interested in entrepreneurship. Although cookie baking may not be part of that ultimate plan, participating in the Christmas Cookie Challenge was a great experience, Gershon said.
“It was a lot of fun.”
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