SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah bakery and its large, edible cookie creations are about to have some time in the national limelight.
The Baking Hive, located in East Millcreek, is at the focus of “Crazy Cookie Builds,” which is scheduled to air Friday, Aug. 4 at 8 p.m. on the Cooking Channel. The show follows head chef Elisa Barber and her team as they create large-scale, custom cookie creations.
In the first episode, audiences can watch as the team builds a replica of Rice-Eccles Stadium for University of Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham and a 10-foot tall schoolhouse for William Penn Elementary.
“We’re used to working hard and fast, but we usually don’t have cameras all around you,” Barber said in an interview. “It adds another level of stress in there.”
Barber said a production company approached her and her staff with the idea to film a show after the company saw the bakery’s work on social media.
“I thought it was a scam at first,” Barber said.
After determining that the request was real, the Baking Hive team filmed two pilot episodes at the bakery in February. The first episode is scheduled to air several times on the Cooking Channel and the Food Network over the next few weeks, and the second is a holiday special tentatively scheduled to run in November and air throughout the holidays, Barber said.
“I think they’re watching to see how these perform, so that’s why we’re telling everyone to tune in,” Barber said. “If this performs well, then they’ll either order more episodes from us or they could give us a whole series. We’re hoping for a whole series.”
The cookie creations for the first pilot episode were ordered to commemorate Whittingham’s 100th win at the University of Utah and the end of a reading program at William Penn Elementary. She said both cookie creations were exciting to make because she’s a University of Utah fan and because of the reaction of the children at the elementary school.
“(Building large edible creations) is probably the most stressful thing I’ve ever done, but then to see pure joy from children, you’re just like, ‘This is why we do it. Look how happy people are,’” Barber said. “So it makes it worth all the stress, all the broken gingerbread, all the redos, the lack of sleep and starvation.”
Barber said the Baking Hive crew includes Brenda Nibley, the “creative brain”; Emily Pehrson, the “piping and decorating genius”; Elly Carter, the “fondant queen”; Brooke Hathaway, who helps run the store; and Chad Young, a carpenter, and Barber’s fiance Jason Crockatt, a general contractor, who work together to create the structures to hold their tasty builds.
“Brenda sits down and dreams up these gorgeous creations, and once she gets it drawn out, then our whole team sits down and meets and come up with ideas and then basically divides and conquers,” Barber said.
As the pastry chef, Barber said it’s her job to figure out “how to roll and cut and bake all these things so they’ll fit and work together” and to come up with a treat to go with the large creations.
“These gingerbread houses (and large cookie creations) are edible, but you wouldn’t want to eat them because it’s like a work of art, so another thing I do is I come up with a tasting element,” she said. “It’s basically a dessert that goes along with the (build).”
Barber opened the Baking Hive three years ago, returning to her home state of Utah after years studying and working abroad. She initially studied sociology at University of California, Berkeley with the intent to get a Ph.D. in clinical psychology but switched gears.
She ended up interning with her cousin, who is a pastry chef in LA and then there decided to go to culinary school in Ireland. After finishing culinary school, she chefed at a bakery and a Michelin star restaurant in London before coming back to East Millcreek to start the Baking Hive.
“All the people on the show, we’re all from this neighborhood, so it’s such a local show but it’s going on such a national level,” she said. “I feel like that’s one of the things I’m most excited about because I feel like having lived all over the world, (I can see) Utah is such a gem.”