I always feel so honored and privileged to connect with such amazing artists and today’s featured baker is no exception! I’ve been an admirer of Taishi Ligon’s work ever since seeing her on Food Network’s Christmas Cookie Challenge almost two years ago! She may be a familiar face to many of you too, which makes it all the more fun to share her story! Seven years ago, Taishi had never decorated a cookie and today she runs a flourishing business, with a Food Network WIN under her belt, all while juggling a busy family with her husband and two young kids. Taishi, of Cookie Joy, fills us in on how she almost didn’t apply for the show and shares all about her Food Network experiences. We have so much to cover, let’s dig in!
A Dental Professional with a Sweet Tooth
“Years ago, if you would’ve told me I’d be baking full-time, I would’ve called you crazy,” Taishi shared. As a successful professional working in the dental industry, playing with sugar was far from her mind. Pregnant with her second child, her husband, Brandon, was offered an exciting position as a school principal in San Angelo, Texas. Being a supportive husband and wife team, they jumped at the opportunity and Taishi left her career behind with plans to stay home with the kids. They moved from Austin to San Angelo and planted new roots.
While balancing life with a newborn, Taishi decided she needed an outlet and thought maybe she could sell cakes once in a while. After all, Taishi and her mom used to bake when she was growing up and she always enjoyed it. Shortly after starting to offer cakes, a customer requested decorated sugar cookies, which she had never made. “Thank God for YouTube!”, Taishi laughed. But after that first attempt, “I was hooked after that first set,” Taishi shared.
Cookie Joy Is Born
Taishi, a completely self-taught decorator, launched her business in 2016 and has found a loving clientele in her community. In the beginning, she would bake her famous chocolate chip cookies and deliver to customers the same day. “I’d show up at the door and people were so joyful and excited! That’s really how I named by business,” Taishi explained. “Nobody is sad while eating a cookie.”
When first building her business, she would take on every order, but quickly realized it wasn’t sustainable or a good balance for her family. She now caps production at 6-7 custom orders per week. She does however offer pre-sale items around different holidays in which she bakes as many cookies as she can!
About four years into her cookie business, she received a special message via Instagram!
When Food Network Likes Your Cookies…
After seeing her work on Instagram, a producer from Food Network contacted Taishi encouraging her to apply for the 4th season of the Christmas Cookie Challenge. Taishi shared that she thought, “heck no, sister!” She was very intimidated at the idea but once she shared the news with Brandon, he knew she’d be great. He cheered her on, helped make her audition video, and was confident she’d make it, even though Taishi did not expect that she’d be selected.
To her surprise, she heard back, and they wanted to move forward with the interview process. The process really consists of some baking challenges, so producers have a better idea of what to expect, if you’re selected. Obviously, she passed, and the adventure began!
Christmas Cookie Challenge Experience
Taishi filmed the episodes at Discovery Studios in New Orleans in Dec 2020. However, she said filming locations do change for different seasons. As far as filming, it is a 3-day process for each episode. And the competitors for the different episodes rotate through. She shared that the sequence of filming consists of interviews on day 1, baking on day 2 and exit interviews on day 3.
The first part of the experience that Taishi loved was the kitchen! She shared that it is a “dream kitchen,” with every piece of equipment and every ingredient. You can also provide a list of any additional ingredients you may need, and they will procure them for you!
But what made the experience unforgettable was the fascinating people she got to meet. They came from all different backgrounds with really unique stories and accomplishments. Taishi shared, “they have the same struggles, inspirations, joys and you can all dork out together about cookies.”
Taishi also had the privilege of meeting the one and only Ree Drummond, who she’s admired since high school. It was so wonderful to hear that “she’s just as kind and sweet as she appears on TV.” There was even a moment where Taishi was struggling, or “losing it,” is her words. Ree came over to her station, offered help, calmed her down and lifted her up. Ree was just watching them bake and took it upon herself to offer her sweet wisdom when she saw her struggling. Clearly, it meant a lot to Taishi and she treasures the special memory.
Heading into the final part of the competition, Taishi actually thought one of her competitors was going to win it all. They do not tell you in advance, so all reactions are real. “That look of surprise on my face is genuine. You could’ve knocked me over with a feather,” Taishi gushed.
Last year, as part of the 5-year celebration of Christmas Cookie Challenge, Food Network called Taishi again and invited her to participate in the Champions special! Leading up to the filming, she said to her husband, “I wonder who will be there. I think I’ll be fine as long as Lucie’s not there.” Referring to Lucie Radcliffe, who goes by Lucie Bakes, is a baker Taishi really respects and admires. But sure enough, she showed up on day 1 and there was Lucie! Plot twist! Both Taishi and Lucie were both eliminated in the first round. But Taishi still cherishes the experience. She did share that “time is the great equalizer in that kitchen.”
Taishi now can’t go into public without someone calling her “The Cookie Lady.” In her words, she’s, “San Angelo famous.” But in my opinion, I think she’s more famous than in just San Angelo!
Advice For Aspiring Bakers
When I asked Taishi what advice she has for aspiring or current bakers, she had a couple golden nuggets. The first being perseverance. “It’s a slow climb, it takes a lot of patience and time,” Taishi shared. She also encourages others to find a mentor or other “cookie friends”. Having others who can cheer you on and or you can vent to when your cookies burn, can make a huge difference and provide just the motivation you need to keep going.
What does the Future Hold for Cookie Joy?
Taishi is actually looking at commercial spaces in the hopes of having a little sweet shop! She warmly describes it as, “A cute, little bakery with treats, a barista, where people can come and enjoy cookies and different sweets.” I have no doubt that Taishi’s vision will come true, and I can’t wait to visit someday. I know it will be just as perfectly beautiful as her cookies.
Reflections on Her Success
Taishi never could have dreamed where cookies would take her. You can hear the passion and love for her craft in her voice. Even when she has a particularly challenging order, she wakes up the next morning, checks on her cookies and thinks, “look at this beautiful thing I made.”
Taishi and her Food Network competitors have group chats, they stay in touch and continue to cheer each other on in life. Further reflecting on her Food Network experiences, Taishi shared, “I’m glad I tackled my fear. For me, it was a lot of validation.” Going on to say, “I quit my job and started making cookies!” Taking that initial leap of faith, with the support of Brandon, encouragement from the Food Network and her love of sweets, has positioned Taishi to be living her dream. “Doing something you love, that really is the dream.”
Gratitude and Gallery
It was such an honor to connect with Taishi, share her story and I look forward to cheering her on in everything she does! I hope she also inspires you to take that leap, keep going, your dream is right around the corner!
I highly encourage you to follow Taishi’s socials, linked below, to see her STUNNING work and keep up to date with her! In the meantime, please enjoy this gorgeous gallery of Cookie Joy creations!
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