Emily Solomos of Mount Sinai on the set of Food...

Emily Solomos of Mount Sinai on the set of Food Network's "Christmas Cookie Challenge." Credit: Food Network/Dawn Hoffmann

Mount Sinai's Emily Solomos, whose Instagram account Em's Custom Cookies is a cornucopia of delectable designs and colors, competes Thursday on season 5 of Food Network's "Christmas Cookie Challenge."

"I was messaged by a casting agency" that saw the online photos of her baked goods, says the 24-year-old, who works in marketing at PipingRock Health Products in Ronkonkoma. "They were messaging me for a really long time," she says by phone from her parents’ home. "And I didn't answer because I thought that it was a scam."

Solomos relented "after maybe two or three weeks of constant DMs [direct messages]," and the casting agent "told me a little bit about the show" — in which hosts/judges Ree Drummond and Eddie Jackson during each episode pick a $10,000-prize winner among five bakers in two rounds — "and how she wants to set me up for an interview with the producers."

That led to a pair of Zoom remote videos — one introducing herself and her 2-year-old, part-time cookie business, "and then the second interview, where you have to actually make cookies to show the producers. I had to make two designs, three cookies each, and then I had to make a 3D cookie," meaning one that stands or is otherwise not in a traditionally flattened shape. In her episode, the bakers made life-size ugly Christmas sweaters.

In April, a week or two after being chosen, Solomos flew to Knoxville, Tennessee, for the shoot. "The whole process was super-last-minute and rushed, so that kind of adds to the stress of everything," she says. "But the whole experience was definitely life-changing, and I was grateful to be there and have that kind of opportunity. I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was eye-opening just to kind of know that I'm good enough to be there, and how much more capable I am than I ever thought."

Born in Smithtown and raised in Mount Sinai, where her high school softball team reached the 2015 Long Island Class A championship game, Solomos is the elder of two daughters of Michael, an IT executive with the Farmingdale office-environment company Waldner's, and Gemma, a secretary in the Mount Sinai school district. After being exposed to baking during her job throughout high school at the counter of the now-closed Create-a-Cake in Port Jefferson Station, she graduated from Iona College with a marketing degree in 2019.

At the moment, Em's Custom Cookies — made in her parents' kitchen, "which they don't love, because it's just so much," Solomos says, chuckling — offers pickup only, with no shipping. But, she notes, "I've had people drive from all over to get them, including out-of-state." The "Christmas Cookie Challenge" exposure may bump up her business, which already is booked through February, but Solomos isn't looking to go full time. "I love the consistency of a 9-to-5 job," she says. "But later in life, that is something I would probably reconsider."

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