It started with Christmas Cookies; A look at local baker’s journey to a worldwide baking competition, Greatest Baker 2020

Jill Sassoon, from Scratch Baked Goods, is currently competing for a feature on Bake From Scratch Magazine and $10,000.

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Photo by Alex Sassoon

When Jill Sassoon was about five years old, she beamed as she passed out the Christmas cookies she helped her mom make to family and friends. A red hot candy topped cookie shaped like Rudolph’s nose.

Sassoon had her own rolling pin, provided by her mother, and she’d cut out the shapes of the cookies and sneak in cookie dough scraps for herself. They made enough to fill a big Tupperware container full of cookies for the holidays that Sassoon indulged in until they were gone.

This awakened a love for baking in Sassoon. Little did she know that years later, just around the holidays, in 2020, she’d be competing in The Greatest Baker, a worldwide virtual baking competition, with ten years of baking experience under her belt.

Like many others, Jill Sassoon was glued to her computer screen awaiting results on Thursday, Nov. 19, when The Greatest Baker would announce the quarter-finalists for its contest.

By the next afternoon, Sassoon was confirmed to have made it to the quarter-finals, where she would be competing among other first-place winners.

It was the challenges brought forth by unprecedented times due to COVID-19 and Sassoon’s attitude for trying new things that led her to compete.

Christmas tree cookies made by Jill Sassoon for the Holiday Season in 2016. (Image via Jill Sassoon’s Instagram)

“COVID has made this year difficult for me as a parent and as someone in the food industry and I’m sure everyone could relate to that,” Sassoon said to the Signal Tribune. “I decided to make 2020 the year of saying, ‘yes’.”

She continued, “I was going to learn new skills, try new things, and get creative to generate business. I do not think I would have been so confident to even try to enter this contest if it wasn’t for this attitude.”

Sassoon heard of the Greatest Baker Competition online through an ad. Accompanied by her new resolution, she entered.

“I am so thankful that I did! This competition is worldwide and I am up against some talented people. To even make it this far in the competition makes me feel so supported by my friends and family. I hope to make them proud, but also to make Long Beach proud.”

If Sassoon wins The Greatest Baker 2020, she’d be featured in Bake From Scratch Magazine, a renowned baking magazine manufactured by Hoffman Media, receive a year’s supply of Stuffed Puffs and an additional prize of $10,000.

“I want to show my kids that you can be successful and do what you love,” Sassoon’s Greatest Baker profile displays at the top of the page.

As of publication time, Sasson is in seventh place in the quarter-finals with two days left of voting. Voting will close on Thursday, Nov. 26 at 11:00 p.m.

While she’s not competing in a worldwide virtual baking contest, Sassoon works at Scratch Baked Goods, an American Patisserie owned by Deborah Demjanovich Hirt, a Long Beach local. Sassoon has been working there since 2016, with three other bakers.

“We work together to pump out a pretty diverse selection of pastries and cakes,” Sasson said. “About two years ago I came into the head baker position so I get to make the pastries and wedding cakes for our Long Beach community. I love Scratch and I love Long Beach. I basically have a dream job.”

She is also hosting a new virtual class on December 6 with Long Beach Food & Beverage, where those who sign up will learn how to decorate holiday cookies for $15.

Her journey to Scratch Baked Goods and eventually The Greatest Baker, really started when Sassoon was in college working on a Psychology degree and got a job as a barista at Stevenson Coffee House at UC Santa Cruz. Eventually, Sassoon said, she picked up baking shifts where she and her team made “Fudgies,” which were a student favorite.

“On campus, I got to practice making cookies, cakes, and quiche,” she said.

Soon, Sassoon was back to making baked goods for her loved ones. “Being a college student with little funds made a lot of my gifts homemade and I usually would bake treats for my friends,” the baker said.

While at UC Santa Cruz, Sassoon met her husband.

“While I waited for him to finish up his degree I got a new job off of campus at The Buttery Bakery,” she said. “Here I learned a little more about the wedding cake industry and how to laminate pastries.”

Now, Sassoon will spend this holiday week awaiting the results that in part are the product of her years-long journey, which started with rolling pins and red hot candy topped Rudolph noses.

To follow Sassoon’s journey on Greatest Baker 2020 or donate and/or cast a vote, visit her profile here.