Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego Events

Meet the Judges of our 30th Anniversary Gingerbread Competition

The Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County announces the celebrity judges who will appear at the 30th anniversary Gingerbread City Gala.

We’re honored and excited for Chef Jose Barajas of Mmm…Cakes in Chula Vista, Chef Charity George of Nailed It! on Netflix, Chef Maeve Rochford of Sugar and Scribe and Emmy Award-winning TV host Sam “the Cooking Guy” Zien to join us on December 6, 2023, at The Natural History Museum in Balboa Park to judge our 30th annual gingerbread competition!

Chef Jose Barajas is the owner of Mmm…Cakes in Chula Vista and has been a big part of the renaissance of Chula Vista’s Third Avenue.

His bakery has a fun “Golden Girls” vibe to it and has brought gourmet cake creations to Chula Vista. Chef Jose has competed on TLC and Food Network shows, including The Next Great Baker and was the Gingerbread Showdown champion. Chef Jose has also worked behind the cameras for Netflix’s Sugar Rush and HBO’s Baketopia.

Chef Charity George, also known as the “Sugar Sorceress,” damaged not one, but two Easy Bake Ovens as a child before her mother decided to teach her how to use the “big” oven. She went to culinary school in Paris, France, at Le Ritz Escoffier and finished her Pastry Arts degree at Grossmont College.

Chef Charity is the Pastry Chef and Cake Artist for Nailed It! on Netflix. She’s the magic hands that makes all the cakes and other treats the contestants attempt to copy in the show. Charity specializes in chocolate and sugar art, particularly with regards to wedding and extreme cakes. She owns d’Zrt Cake Studio.

Aside from all her work on Nailed It!, Charity has been a contestant on TLC’s Ultimate Cake Off, was featured on TLC’s Fabulous Cakes and the Niecy Nash Wedding Bash. On Food Network, Charity has appeared on Cake Wars and Halloween Wars (season 2, 5 & 7) and she was featured on the pilot episode of SugarDome that aired as a special of Cupcake Wars.

Chef Maeve Rochford is the owner of the award-winning Sugar and Scribe, a small upscale bakeshop that debuted in 2010 in Pacific Beach and is now located in La Jolla. Over the years, Sugar and Scribe has been listed as one of the 50 Best Shops in the West by Sunset Magazine and recognized in 2015 as Best New Restaurant in La Jolla among other accolades.

Maeve has also been named Food Network’s Holiday Baking Champion in 2015, Irish Woman of the Year in 2016 and was awarded Chef of the Year in 2019 by the California Restaurant Association.

Maeve’s love of food and the memories that great foods inspire drive her to create morsels of excellence every day.

“I think my keen understanding of flavor combinations comes from mixing leftovers, never being afraid of food and loving the experience of cooking,” she shares. “When I’m happy, I eat. When I’m sad, I eat. When I’m angry, I eat. So it’s important to have great food for every emotion!”

Sam Zien quit a biotech job in July of 2001 to try his hand as the host of a travel show.  But a month before a trip to shoot in Tokyo and Hong Kong, September 11th happened – and that changed everything.

He decided to stick with TV, but switched from travel to cooking and eventually landed a twice-weekly 2-minute cooking segment on a local morning news program.  The segments caught on and grew into a 30-minute show appropriately named Sam the Cooking Guy – an irreverent mix of humor and easy-to-replicate recipes. It’s “reality” cooking in the sense that whatever really happens when he shoots, stays in the show. Eventually, Discovery Health came along and Just Cook This! with Sam the Cooking Guy was born. 

Known for his “big in taste and small in effort” philosophy, Sam has 15 Emmy awards, 3 cookbooks and a dozen visits to the Today Show. He also creates video content for companies like Chosen Foods, Bed Bath & Beyond and Bumble Bee Foods. Sam has a YouTube Channel and owns three San Diego restaurants – Not Not Tacos, Samburgers and Graze.

We appreciate Chef Jose, Chef Charity, Chef Maeve, and Sam for making time to attend this year’s Gingerbread City Gala and to judge our annual gingerbread competition!

Many thanks to each of our sponsors, underwriters and patrons! Their support not only made this event possible, but it also bolsters our ability to provide free resources to San Diegans impacted by epilepsy.