2024 Chefs & Judges Gallery

The 2024 Judges

We were very happy to host 6 judges on our 2024 judging panel: Shane Chartrand (Chef, International Indigenous Culinary advocate & author), Omar Mouallem (author, filmmaker, journalist & educator), Johwanna 'Jojo' Alleyne (Owner of Mojo Jojo Pickles & food judge for the Edmonton Heritage Festival), Linda Hoang (content creator, social media influencer & social media strategist), 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).

The 2024 Competitors

We were absolutely thrilled to enlist 14 competitors in 2024. These talented and daring bakers presented their prized cookie creation for a twoonie-a-taste at the annual Highlands School Culinary Arts Cook-Off & Auction fundraiser — Cookie-Off Edition on April 13, 2024. Cookie sales alone in 2023 raised an astonishing $3,600, and we aim to beat that record thanks to these incredible competitors who are generously donating their time, ingredients and cookies to our event — talk about giving to our community!

Rica Marano

Cookie Creation: Birthday Cake

Rica is the owner and founder of Primera Bakeshop (3331 118 Avenue) and has been professionally baking for 24 years. She studied Food and Hospitality Management as well as attended lots of training and courses in baking before starting Primera Bkaeshop in 2018. She is most comfortable working behind the kitchen creating new flavours and ideas.

Theresa Yaremchuk

Cookie Creation: Chocolate Ripple Chip - a mix of sweet and salty - best of both worlds. Chocolate chips, potato chips and sea salt!

Theresa is a Preschool Teacher and a mother of two daughters, one at Highlands and one at East Glen. Her family moved to the Newton area in November 2020 and this is their third year at Highlands School. Theresa loves baking and does the majority of her baking at Christmas time to share with others. She also enjoys reading cozy mysteries in her spare time. Theresa is participating in the Cook-Off Cookie Edition for the 3rd year and is really looking forward to helping the school raise funds.

Abby Reimer

Cookie Creation: Lemon Sunshine - chewy, buttery, and incredibly lemon-y. With poppyseeds.

Little Bird Baking (4937 50 Street, Camrose, AB) is a micro bakery dedicated to helping elevate your everyday celebrations. Abby especially loves gourmet cookies, macarons, and scones. She is completely obsessed with beautiful and delicious baking and started baking seriously in university when she realized that she could turn around a horrible day with something warm, buttery, and sweet. There's some legitimate magic in a good cookie, and that is her kind of wizardry.

Knopke Chaos (Fiona Mecready, Linda Mecready & Shirley Knopke)

Cookie Creation: Pfeffernüsse

A grandma, mom, and current student at Highlands - three generations of ladies who love to bake and create kitchen chaos on a regular basis. With recipes passed down through the generations, you are sure to get the authentic German cookie experience.

Michelle Huynh

Cookie Creation: Strawberry Cheesecake - a decadent cookie perfectly combining the flavours of creamy cheesecake and sweet strawberries with a delightful touch of basil.

Michelle is a first-year Culinary Arts student at NAIT, who really enjoys experimenting and developing new cookie flavours. At school, she's known as Cookie Monster to her peers and instructors. Michelle hopes to one day have her own cookie and sweets business and share her unique creations with the Edmonton community!

Vikram Redgaonkar

Cookie Creation: Cream Cheese Stuffed Red Velvet Cookie

Vikram Redgaonkar is the Executive Chef at Highlands Golf Club (6603 Ada Boulevard) 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

Cookie Creation: London Fog - an Earl Grey cookie with a creamy feel and pops of bergamot.

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 and in 2023 they moved to the Gold Bar neighbourhood, 5010 106 Avenue.

Lilli Lancaster

Cookie Creation: Cookie Monster - A vanilla flavoured blue dough infused with both white chocolate and milk chocolate chips, topped with homemade Royal icing googly eyes and half a chocolate chip cookie.

Lilli (Thompson) Lancaster is the Owner and Founder of Great North Cookie Co. (1, 20 Mcleod Ave, Spruce Grove AB). 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!

Jesse Woodland

Cookie Creation: TBD

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. Since partnering up with fellow Edmonton Chef Levi Biddelcombe in 2023, Jesse now owns and operates Backstairs Burger (with three locations across the city and counting). When he isn’t cooking, there is nothing that Jesse loves to do more than spend time with his two young children. No stranger to a game of chess, when he does get a little bit of downtime, he enjoys building Star Wars Lego, exploring Edmonton's many great restaurants and learning about the world around him.

Joanne Landmark

Cookie Creation: Rock(less) and Rol(lo) Cookies

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.

Highlands Alumni (Kit Anderson & Rhyan Vercholuk)

Cookie Creation: Chewy Chocolatey Oatmeal Treat

Kit Anderson and Rhyan Vercholuk met in Grade 7 at the Highlands Junior High and have been friends since. These Highlands Alumni now call new schools home Eastglen and Victory School of the Arts, respectively but their shared passion for culinary exploration has kept them exploring food dishes such as pizza, pastas, hot sauces, and chilli oils. Last year Rhyan joined Kit at the Cookie-off, and they have teamed up again to deliver a chewy chocolatey oatmeal treat.

Doughmocracy + Sugared & Spiced

Cookie Creation: TBD

Not only are they well-known for their public service to our communities, but they are long-time supporters of our Cookie Off! After taking a break from competing last year, Doughmocracy (Janis Irwin, Blake Desjarlais, Ashley Salvador) is back, joined by EPSB Trustee Trisha Estabrooks, and teaming up with family-owned bakeshop, Sugared & Spiced Baked Goods Inc. (REAR-10334 82 Ave), to bring us a cookie we will all vote for!

Dough Dadz (David Dickie, Keith Goertzen, & Jeremy Frentz)

Cookie Creation: Waffle-ly Dough-licious

These foodie father friends are home bakers and like to challenge themselves with finding delicious treats that all their children enjoy (which is quite the feat!). From board games to ball games, these devoted dads always find ways to support their munching munchkins and our Cookie-Off is no exception.

Erica Box & Lyndsey Burgess

Cookie Creation: TBD

Returning Competitor and 2022 Judges’ Choice Award Winner, Chef Erica Box is teaming up with home baker and fellow Duchess Atelier (10936–119th Street) team member, Lyndsey Burgess, to bring us yet another crowd-pleasing cookie! When these confectionary queens are not in the bake shop, you can find them out and about, raising some of our amazing Highlands kiddos.