2023 Chefs & Judges Gallery

The 2023 Competitors

We were absolutely thrilled to host 12 competitors in 2023. These talented and daring bakers presented their prized cookie creations for a loonie-a-taste at the annual Highlands School Culinary Arts Cook-Off & Auction fundraiser — Cookie-Off Edition on April 22, 2023. Their cookie sales raised an astonishing $3,600! May we also applaud that these incredible competitors generously donated their time and cookies to our event — talk about giving to our community!

The 2023 Judges & Student Judges

Tough-love judges Cindy Huynh (Cook with Chopsticks Blogger & Food Photographer), Tina Faiz (Co-author of Edmonton Cooks & former food columnist), Alan Kellogg (amateur chef & food reviewer for the Edmonton Journal ), Phil Wilson a.k.a. Baconhound (food writer, radio columnist for CBC Edmonton, & head food judge for the Edmonton Heritage Festival), and Nigel Prosser (Co-Owner of Be-a-Bella Candy & Gifts) were paired with Highlands students who awarded Judges' Choice, Kids' Choice, and Most Creative/Unique. The general public also cast their votes for the People's Choice award. 

The 2023 Award Winner

Congratulations to Chef Lilli Thompson of the Great North Cookie Co. who won in all four award categories: Judges' Choice, Kids' Choice, Most Creative, and People's Choice! Her cookie definitely had us wanting s'more!


About the Competitors

Kate Holmlund

Kate Holmund, home baker

Cookie Creation: Not your Grandma's Gingersnap — a spicy yet chewy delightful treat.

An assistant principal by day and an amateur baker on the weekends, there are two things Kate Holmlund’s family regularly requests: focaccia bread and gingersnaps. She typically only makes gingersnaps once a year, at Christmas time, but decided to whip them up for this special occasion. A cookie in high demand by her family and friends, this recipe is only ever made in quadruple batches (and multiple quadruple batches at that!!) Look for her chewy “Not Your Grandma’s Gingersnap” and let her know what you think! Maybe, if you’re lucky, you can get on the Christmas list for this tasty treat!

Theresa Yaremchuk

Theresa Yaremchuk, Home BakerCookie Creation: Hot Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Theresa is currently a Preschool Teacher and a mother of two daughters, in grades 5 and 9. Her family moved to the Newton area in November 2020 and this is their second year at Highlands School. Theresa enjoys baking and does the majority of her baking at Christmas time to share with others. She is participating in the Cook-Off Cookie Edition for the 2nd year and is really looking forward to helping the school raise funds.

Doreen Prei

Chef Doreen PreiA Michelin-star trained, award-winning chef, Doreen has cooked in private restaurants and hotels in Germany, Ireland, and Canada. She completed her training in Berlin, Germany at First Floor Restaurant before moving to Dublin where she cooked at the Four Seasons Hotel, Chapter One, and Gordon Ramsay at the Ritz Carlton. Finding her way to Edmonton, Alberta, Doreen was the restaurant chef at the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald, Chef de Cuisine and Executive Chef at Zinc Restaurant and Catering at the AGA, Chef of Culinary Development at the Edmonton Petroleum Club, and taught cooking classes at Get Cooking. Doreen was the opening Executive Chef at May at the Art Gallery of Alberta and Corporate Chef at Passionate Hospitality Group.

Chef Prei consulted at numerous restaurants in Canada. She successfully competed and won many competitions throughout Canada and the US. She recently won her episode on the Food Network show Fire Masters which is available to watch on Amazon Prime, Season 1, Episode 16. Currently, she holds a position as Director of Culinary Services at Revera The Churchill in Edmonton, Alberta. You can listen to her food column every Thursday at 4:40 pm on CBC Radio Active at 93.9 FM. She also specializes in food consulting, cooking with kids, and wine maker’s dinners.

Erica Box

Chef Erica Box, Red Balloon Sweets Co.Erica completed her culinary arts and pastry training at Vancouver's Northwest Culinary Academy. After working in a number of Vancouver hotspots, she spent a year working in Spain's prestigious two Michelin-star, Mugaritz.  Since her move to Edmonton in 2012 Erica has baked with Duchess Bakeshop, District Café & Bakery, and is the owner of a small handmade caramel company called Red Balloon Sweets Co..

Currently an Instructor at Atelier by Duchess, Erica enjoys teaching a wide variety of hands-on baking classes 3 nights per week. She is also an enthusiastic home baker and enjoys spending her days off making sourdough, croissants, and treats for her family. Outside of teaching at Atelier, her two young kids keep her and her husband busy and happy. You might catch her running through the river valley, perusing the aisles of cookbooks at your local EPL Branch, or popping up a booth at a local market.

Maria Bubalo

Maria Bubalo, A Worthy Cookie

Cookie Creation: Sugar Cookies

Creative baking has been an artistic outlet for Maria Bubalo for as long as she can remember. Growing up in Europe, Maria watched the women in her family make incredible sweets from scratch for every special occasion. Now that she has a family of her own, there is no shortage of special occasions needing equally special treats. Prior to opening the cookie studio, Maria spent 15 years in a corporate sales career where she grew her passion for facilitating workshops and customer service. Even though she traded her briefcase for an apron, helping corporate professionals with their promotional needs still lies dear to her heart. Maria understands that it can be a challenge to source meaningful gifts and entertainment activities while navigating a complex business environment.

A Worthy Cookie is an online cookie studio specializing in bespoke personalized French macarons, sugar cookies, and cupcakes. They are pleased to support the YEG business community with desserts that feature logos and images for corporate and special events. The studio also offers mobile sugar cookie decorating workshops for groups looking for a creative, indoor team-building activity in the Edmonton region. Maria is proud to be a small business in the YEG area and is happy to support community projects that focus on improving the well-being and success of teenagers and children.

Vikram Redgaonkar

Vikram Redgaonkar, Highlands Golf Club

Cookie Creation: Lemon Meringue Cookie

Vikram Redgaonkar is the Executive Chef at Highlands Golf Club which overlooks Edmonton's beautiful river valley. Previous to Highlands Golf Club, he was a Sous Chef and Chef de Partie at The Westin Edmonton, Head Chef at PURE Canadian Gaming, First Cook with Marriott at River Cree Resort, and a cook at Cafe de Ville. You may also recognize Chef Vikram as he's unlocked veteran competitor status with the Culinary Arts Cook-Off having competed annually since 2018.

Ashley Benson

Ashley Benson, Bloom Cookie Co.

Cookie Creation: Hot Cocoa Cookie — chocolate marshmallow cookie rolled in icing sugar.

The idea for Bloom grew from a warm house filled with friends and food. A desire to make food that included everyone, regardless of allergies or dietary restrictions.

In 2011, after a long career in the Travel industry, owner Ashley Benson decided to turn her beloved hobby of baking cookies into a small business that allowed her to stay home and raise her daughter. With so many of her friends and family having egg, dairy & nut allergies or vegan diets, Ashley recognized that there was a space in Edmonton for high quality, great tasting cookies free of common allergens. After a few different name options and market tests, Bloom Cookie Co. was born! Bloom began selling in farmers' markets in and around Edmonton and soon grew to offer wholesale options to numerous cafés around town. In 2018 Bloom opened their first storefront on 124th Street.

Lilli Thompson

Lilli Thompson, Great North Cookie Co.

Cookie Creation: S'mores — dough filled with milk chocolate chips and honey graham crumbs, topped with toasted marshmallows, milk chocolate chunks, and a graham cracker.

Lilli Thompson is the Owner and Founder of Great North Cookie Co. She was born in the UK and moved to Canada in 2015 and now has two beautiful daughters. Before moving to Canada, she owned a successful cake business called "Lilli's Cakes" for five years - at just 15 years old she was running a five-star food hygiene rated business! She's very excited to finally re-launch her business in its own new version and is primarily selling gourmet soft cookies with the hopes of expansion in the near future. Baking and decorating have been a passion of Lilli's since early childhood — a fond memory of hers is frequently baking with her Gran. As she entered her teenage years, she grew a strong passion for fondant decorating. After finishing high school in the UK, Lilli immediately started an apprenticeship in the food industry and gained her certification to be a chef.

Great North Cookie Co. believes in the value of homemade, handcrafted quality baked goods. Not only do they warm the home, but their goods will definitely warm your heart. Your taste buds will be happy!

Shane Chartrand

Chef Shane Chartrand

Shane Chartrand, of the Maskêkosak people from Enoch Cree Nation, grew up learning the importance and value of food through hunting, fishing, and foraging with his father. In grade 9, he started out as a dishwasher at a diner and eventually worked his way onto the line as a cook. At 19, he moved to Edmonton to pursue culinary training through the Culinary Arts program at NAIT and became a Red Seal-certified chef. After graduation, Shane travelled all over Canada and the U.S. working with award-winning chefs and training in some of the best restaurants nationwide to hone his craft and deepen his Indigenous knowledge. His Edmonton career history includes Vons Steak House & Oyster Bar, SC Damn Good Food, Sage, Murrieta’s West Coast Bar & Grill, L1/L2, Fairmont Hotel Macdonald, Sutton Place Hotel, and Union Bank Inn.

Shane has appeared on competitive cooking and TV shows, including Chopped Canada, Iron Chef Canada, Fridge Wars, Moose Meat and Marmalade, The Social, and Wall of Chefs. He has also won numerous awards, including Gold Medal Plates competition- 1 Gold (2017), 2 Bronze/ 1 Silver; CCFCC Chef of the Year Competition- Gold Medal, Provincials; Chaine Des Rotisseurs - Plate of the Year Award; Foodie Under 40- Finalist; NAIT Alumni Hall of Fame Award- Finalist; Alberta Aboriginal Role Models Award- Culinary Arts. In 2019, Shane released his first cookbook, tawâw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine, which he co-wrote with Jennifer Cockrall-King. Currently, he is writing a book called MARROW – Progressive Indigenous Cuisine. In addition to supporting our past and present culinary arts cook-off fundraisers, Shane’s an advocate for such charities as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Kids with Cancer, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Kit Anderson

Kit AndersonKit Anderson, Highlands School Alumni and current Eastglen High School grade 10 student, loves to cook and bake in their spare time. They are currently taking Foods and enjoy the opportunity to express their culinary creativity in the classroom. At home, they love exploring baking treats from their parents’ childhoods or heating up savoury dishes with spice! Kit competed in the Cook-off last year serving up a classic chocolate oatmeal drop cookie and was bit by the cooking competition bug.

Jesse Woodland

Jesse Woodland, Central Social Hall

Jesse has been cooking since he was 15 when he stumbled upon a dishwashing position in high school. After working at several large chain restaurants, he moved his way around Edmonton, working for several smaller restaurants where he learned the importance of scratch cooking. It was during this time that he met Chef Shane Chartrand, whom he indentured under to complete his culinary apprenticeship. Chef Shane taught Jesse the value of knowing where one's food comes from and how it’s raised and cultivated. The most important lesson he taught Jesse is the importance of the culture and people behind the food.

The next few years saw Jesse learning as much as he could. After graduating from NAIT’s Red Seal Journeyman program, he spent the next few years cooking at restaurants and resorts in Edmonton and the Rocky Mountains before moving to Newfoundland to open a hyper-local restaurant where he learned to forage ingredients and forge strong, tight-knit connections with the local community and food suppliers. After Newfoundland, Jesse returned to Edmonton and spent the next several years cooking throughout the city. Most recently, he has joined the team at Central Social Hall in the heart of downtown Edmonton, where he is happy to be working with a well-known locally owned and operated restaurant group.

When he isn’t cooking, there is nothing that Jesse loves to do more than spend time with his two young children.  When he does get a little bit of downtime, he enjoys painting Star Wars figurines, exploring Edmonton’s many great restaurants, and binge-watching tv shows.

Joanne Landmark

Joanne Landmark

Cookie Creation: Mama Jo's Accident — Seasalt Caramel Cookie

My love for baking started when my kids were little when I often found myself baking for family, neighbourhood kids, and work staff. I realized how relaxing I found it and loved the rewards of “tweaking” recipes or coming up with my own creations.  Since retiring from EPSB, I’ve been able to turn my hobby into a small, part-time job. A few years ago, when my daughter opened a little café, she asked if she could sell some of my baking. I agreed and started supplying her with a classic—banana bread.  I reworked the recipe and included a gluten-free version, and now both products are two of her most popular food items. Like when my kids were small, I continue to supply friends and family with such things as a variety of cookie flavours, carrot cake muffins, and banana loaves/muffins. The name “Mama Jo’s Kitchen” was inspired by my biggest clientele—my grandchildren. “Mama Jo” was the name my youngest grandson gave me and the “kitchen,” is the place where all my grandchildren know they can always find me whipping up some sweet treats for them.