Bear Creek Native Takes Third Place in ‘Halloween Wars’

BEAR CREEK — Hannah Councilman always had a dream: to have her own cooking show on the Food Network.

That dream got one step closer to reality when the Bear Creek native was selected as a competitor in the network’s 2022 season of “Halloween Wars,” a spooky baking competition featuring sugar work, cake baking and carving carvings. pumpkins.

“I would go outside and play in my play kitchen, and pretend to have my own cooking show,” Councilman said of her childhood. “I got to live my dream…I just can’t believe this was crossed off my bucket list.”

She remembers when she was a little girl and she was sitting at the kitchen counter, swinging her legs as she watched her mother prepare delicious snacks and meals. In fact, it was her mother who introduced Councilman to baking, which eventually became her passion.

“I remember the first thing I ever made was brownies, and Mom was always cheering me on,” the councilman said. “She was so patient and no matter if she took more time or I messed things up, she always had me in the kitchen as her shadow.”

That passion would ignite something in Councilman: a dream to attend culinary school and work in the food industry.

After graduating from her home-based high school program in 2019, Councilman attended Wake Tech Community College in Raleigh where she majored in culinary arts and baking and pastry arts. The councilwoman also received a scholarship from the food distribution company US Foods, which paid in full for her studies at Wake Tech.

And for his capstone project at Wake Tech, Councilman was commissioned to make chocolate for Sam Ratto, founder and owner of the Videri Chocolate Factory in Raleigh.

“She tasted my desserts and said, ‘Can I hire her right now?’” she recounted. “They hired me on the spot.”

The councilor, then only 19 years old, became one of the head chocolatiers at the Videri Chocolate Factory, where she works to this day.

And when her career at the chocolate factory was just getting started, Councilman, 20 at the time, was approached by a Food Network casting agency, who saw her work with sugar on her Instagram page.

“This was the biggest dream of my life,” he said. “I auditioned and found out I was going to be a sugar artist for Halloween Wars season 12.”

Before he knew it, Councilman was on a plane headed for a studio in Utah, where the show would be filmed for more than four weeks.

Halloween Wars traditionally features multiple teams, each team consisting of a pumpkin carving artist, a sugar artist, and a cake artist. The three teammates work to create elaborate and spooky displays based on a themed challenge.

The councilman teamed up with two other Food Network newbies: Jannet Michael, who worked on the pumpkins, and Reggie Harris, who baked and sculpted the pies. Together, they became Team Squad Ghouls, and according to the councilman, his team was seen as the least likely to win.

“What was crazy is that we were absolutely the underdogs,” he said. “Every other team had at least one person who had already competed (in a competition program) before. So we were the only ones, we were walking towards this blind man.”

Filming was a grueling event: a six-day work week with 12-15 hour days meant long, grueling days for Councilman and his crew. Squad Ghouls created several elaborate displays during their time on the show, and in turn, they proved they deserved to compete against some of the best in the business.

The councilman said that despite their underdog status, his team won the first episode they appeared on.

“The whole attitude changed,” he said. “Everyone realized that we were here to play, so it was crazy.”

Each week thereafter, Councilman’s team continued to advance in the competition, even avoiding “bottom two” elimination in one episode. Team Squad Ghouls eventually made it to the semifinals before being eliminated, ending their five-episode tenure on the show. Despite being eliminated in that episode, Councilman said that some of the judges’ best praise for her work came from that episode.

Former NFL player Eddie Jackson sampled one of Councilman’s creations: a gluten-free chocolate cake with a peanut butter cream frosting, with chunks of chocolate-covered deep-fried red seaweed all over the cake.

“Eddie said it was the best cake he’d had all season,” said the councillor. “You can see my facial expression when you look at that, and I was speechless.”

After filming through January, Councilman returned to Bear Creek, where he had to keep his role in Halloween Wars a secret for months. She said that once she was able to reveal that she would appear on the show, the community came out in droves to show their support for her.

“At this year’s Goldston Old Fashioned event, I was walking on two feet and someone would stop me and say they were watching me on the show,” said the councillor. “Just to be able to see the amount of support from everyone and from people I didn’t even know… It was so encouraging.”

The latest episode of Halloween Wars aired on October 30, but there’s more in store for Chatham’s own Food Network star.

The councilwoman, now 21, said she continues her work at the chocolate factory, as well as working on her food blog, Rosemary Whisk (www.rosemarywhisk.com), which features gluten-free and dairy-free recipes that the councilwoman use daily. base.

The councilor said that for her, being in Halloween Wars was validation that she chose the right career, one that she wants to continue as long as she can.

“This is the right field for me,” he said. “It was just a validation mark of where I’m supposed to be who I really am…he was very encouraging.”

Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter at @HeedenTaylor.

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