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Batavia woman in Food Network’s Christmas Cookie Contest

Batavia resident Priscilla Sarmiento-Gupana, who now practices pediatric medicine in Aurora, found a way to relieve stress and tap into her artistic side by creating gorgeously decorated cookies that attracted nationwide attention.

Not only did she wow her neighbors and friends with her creations, but thanks to her social media posts, she also found her way onto the Food Network’s 2021 “Christmas Cookie Contest” TV show and will return to the show with an episode on Thursday at 8 p.m. featuring herself and four other contestants.

Sarmiento-Gupana, 41, said he became passionate about cooking in his childhood.

“I started making things out of boxes, like most people start when they’re young. The first thing I made from scratch were chocolate chip cookies. “Then as an adult I moved into sugar cookies and other things,” she said.

“I have always enjoyed art,” he said. “There are many artists in my family. I can say that it is in my blood. I realized that I was pretty good at making things look beautiful, not just delicious, and I continued to improve my skills over time. When I started doing this there weren’t a lot of YouTube tutorials or things like that, so I started doing it through a lot of trial and error. “There were a lot of mistakes, but they brought me to where I am now.”

Sarmiento-Gupana said a personal tragedy led her to bake more often as a form of therapy.

“About 12 years ago, when I was just a new doctor, unfortunately I lost my newborn son during birth and I used cooking as therapy at that time,” he said. “When I started cooking for therapy, I also started cooking for others because making others happy makes you happy, too. Who doesn’t love baked goods or cookies? It makes everyone happy. “I started using my talents to brighten other people’s days, and it made me feel better, too.”

He said the more he cooked, the better his creations became.

“After a while, I was making beautiful, elaborately decorated desserts and started posting my work on social media, mostly on my Instagram page, and that’s how the Food Network became aware of my work,” she said.

He said that his social media posts started to attract great attention.

“I started getting a lot of followers on my page and realized I had a pretty big platform I could use for messages,” he said. “I think social media can be a scary place, but it can also have a positive role, and I decided to use my platform for good.”

She said that as a pediatrician, she was “very interested in taking care of people and being compassionate to those in need, and I was also very interested in people staying healthy, and I started using my bakeries as a way to share positivity and health and other things.” “It’s the same during the epidemic.”

The casting director for Food Network’s “Christmas Cookie Challenge” contacted Sarmiento-Gupana via social media in 2019 when they started looking at her work. He finally appeared on the show in 2021.

He said he came pretty close to winning in 2021, “but unfortunately I lost in the final, so I was really hungry and keen to get back.”

“I was so flattered to get a call asking if I would come back for a ‘redemption episode’ this spring. “I went and filmed it and you will see the results on Thursday,” he said.

He said the local pediatrician’s pastries also caught the attention of two stars of the “Ted Lasso” show.

“I was posting some ‘Ted Lasso’ cookies and one of the editors saw them and contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in sending some cookies to the editors’ wrap party,” she said. “I didn’t know the two stars (Jason Sudeikis and Brendan Hunt) were there and fawning over my work, which was very exciting because I’m a huge fan.”

Sarmiento-Gupana said she continues to bake for special events and her own children’s birthdays, and every Thursday she brings pastries to the clinic where she works for her co-workers to enjoy.

Neighbors like Donna Cooper of Batavia have reaped the benefits of knowing Sarmiento-Gupana, Cooper said.

“I’ve known him since November 2017,” Cooper said. “I only remember it because of the way I met him. He delivered the most amazing box of cookies to my house after the Batavia High School football team, which his son Riley was quarterbacking, won the Class 7A state championship game.

“He left them at my front door,” she said of the cookies. “I had no idea where they were coming from. They were crazy.”

As for Sarmiento-Gupana’s talents, Cooper said her baked goods are “unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”

“I can send you photos and you will be amazed by these cookies. “They’re almost too pretty to eat,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

She said she was excited to see her neighbor return to the “Christmas Cookie Contest.”

“That was the last time we watched it,” Cooper said. “He’s had it before and this is his revenge for coming back to win.”

The designs of Sarmiento-Gupana’s cookies run the gamut from fun and whimsical to pure joy and celebrating Filipino heritage.

“But I also think some of my work centers around social justice and being an active anti-racist. “There are many ways to show your support for those in need or those who are marginalized, and this is my artistic way of showing my support for those who I believe need their voices heard,” he said.

“There is so much power in art and manual work,” he said.

David Sharos is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.

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