Douglas Alley and Eddie Jackson

Douglas Alley with Food Network’s Christmas Cookie Challenge host Eddie Jackson.

Upper Cape Tech teacher Douglas Alley reflects on his Food Network victory, and how family got him to where he is today

Growing up on a small island off the coast of Maine left little for teacher and winner of Food Network’s Christmas Cookie Challenge, Douglas Alley, to do. But one activity was always an option in his household: baking. “I grew up around everyone constantly making pies and muffins and doughnuts and everything imaginable because you didn’t run to the local grocery store to buy desserts and baked goods—we made them,” Alley says.

Alley’s love of baking is symbolic of earlier times: without Amazon Prime, cellphones, or even DVDs. With little to do on the island, Alley started baking when he was in high school, making everything from pie crusts to cookies to doughnuts, which were his favorite. Even homemade ice cream was common for the Alleys’ to make, especially in the winter when snowbanks would act as excellent freezers.

Lemon shortbread cookies

Alley’s lemon shortbread cookies

“All of my baking skills come from a range of individuals that I grew up with on the island,” says Alley. His grandmother was known for her biscuits and cookies, while his mother baked continuously at home, as she preferred it to cooking.

Having fallen in love with baking throughout high school, Alley attended culinary school at Johnson and Wales University, where he studied culinary arts and business management. Even though his focus wasn’t on pastry, it was the pastry students who Alley hung out with the most.

In his last two years at Johnson and Wales, working as a teaching assistant and in the midst of a fellowship, Alley says he “honed and refined” his pastry skills. “I always say I got a free pastry degree while I was at Johnson and Wales too.”

After graduating from college, Alley spent time working as a culinary correspondent with WMBB News 13 in Florida, creating a cooking segment for their midday show. He then owned a successful catering company before returning to Johnson and Wales to be a professor.

Alley also combined his pastry skills and his degree in management to open his own bakery in Rhode Island called Patticakes, which he describes as a “cupcakerie and bakery.” There he made a variety of baked goods and specialty cakes. But, looking to make a shift in his career, Alley decided last year to close his retail space and shifted to an appointment-only cake business. “I was looking for something different,” Alley says, “and I didn’t want to be tied down to a retail space.”