App State alumna bakes her way to Food Network

Lily Kincaid, Reporter

An App State alumna is mixing things up with eleven other bakers on season eight of Food Network’s “Holiday Baking Championship.”

Jennifer Hood, a 29-year-old who lives in Winston-Salem, received her undergraduate degree in dietetics from Florida State University. From there, Hood came to App State for graduate school and graduated in 2016. She currently works in Yadkin County as the assistant director for the school nutrition program.

Hood has baked her whole life, but it wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic that she picked it up as a passion. 

“I started looking at more technique and just trying to find things to do in spare time,” Hood said. 

Around this time, Hood turned her baking into a business and created J Bakes.

J Bakes started with recipe videos on Instagram. However, since the pandemic left a lot of kids stuck at home, she started offering baking classes for kids over Zoom. She incorporated her background in nutrition and food science into the basic recipes she taught to the kids. 

Adele Shely, who runs a styling and marketing business with her sisters, helped Hood create the name, logo and Instagram page for J Bakes. Hood also made Shely’s wedding cake.

“I knew something big would come along for her,” Shely said. “She’s truly the best baker I know. I’ve never had a better cake.”

Courtesy of Food Network

Somewhere between teaching online classes, baking orders, working as a dietician for the school system and a nutritional consultant on the side, Hood received a message on Instagram asking her to audition for “Holiday Baking Championship.” At first, she thought it was a scam, but once she gave them a call, she realized it was legitimate. 

“Food Network specifically, like as a kid, that was my favorite channel growing up,” Hood said. “I absolutely loved it. I always told people I wanted to do that one day as my career.”

In her senior year of high school, when asked where she’d be in ten years, Hood told everyone she’d be on the Food Network. 

“While I, like, kind of meant it, I didn’t really know it would ever come to fruition,” Hood said. 

The first three episodes of “Holiday Baking Championship” have already aired. Hood described it as “an absolute whirlwind.” 

“It feels insanely crazy to be on that set,” Hood said. “The clock ticking is pressure, and I felt that, although I really enjoy being put under pressure.”

Carrie Bostic, who used to work with Hood in Cabarrus County for the school nutrition program, said Hood was in the process of moving houses when Food Network called her to do a virtual audition. Even though she’d already packed up her entire kitchen, Hood found a way to make it work, Bostic said.

“That just shows how well she does under pressure,” Bostic said. “She always finds a different avenue to take to make it work.”

Even though the bakers are competing for $25,000, Hood said everyone was very supportive of each other, and there was a feeling of camaraderie among them. 

“Half of the things I’m being, you know, faced with, are things that I’ve either never done before or maybe tried it once,” Hood said. “Everyone was so encouraging and willing to help.”

While filming the show, Hood found out she was pregnant. She and her husband are expecting a baby in March. 

Hood describes baking as her love language and said she plans to expand J Bakes, though she’s not sure in which direction yet. 

“Baking just seems to always be for a celebration, or for something fun, or for an event or a milestone, or just celebrating people,” Hood said. “I just love that. I love celebrating people. I love being a part of that.”

New episodes premiere on the Food Network Mondays at 8 p.m., and the series is streaming on Discovery+.