Kovalenko, who lives in Woodcliff Lake and previously ran Skaza Cakes in Midland Park, is a contestant on the Food Network show "The Elf on the Shelf: Sweet Showdown", premiering on Sunday, Nov. 19 at 8 p.m.
On the show, six teams of bakers are challenged to create a edible showpieces highlighting the holiday season. The winning team wins $25,000 and the coveted title of The Ambassadors of Confectionary Concoctions. The show is hosted by cake master Duff Goldman with judges Kardea Brown and Ashley Holt. The show runs through Sunday, Dec. 17.
Kovalenko is no stranger to the Food Network, having appeared on "Spring Baking Championship: Easter" last year and "Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Cake Spectacular." She said producers reached out to her and thought she'd be the perfect fit.
"I was very excited," Kovalenko said.
Kovalenko initially came to the United States from Ukraine to study music. Her first job was working at a bakery.
"I didn't speak much English, I didn't even know what a Danish was," Kovalenko said.
Finding her passion, Kovalenko soon flourished at baking cakes, and stared her own commercial kitchen in 2018, opening her own storefront in 2021. She has worked on cakes for Tom Cruise, Whoopi Goldberg and Michelle Obama.
Doing "The Elf on the Shelf: Sweet Showdown" allowed Kovalenko to challenge herself.
"Doing a show like this can be stressful, but it was a lot of fun," Kovalenko said. "The biggest challenge is to prove you can do a lot more."
She also knew doing a show about an iconic Christmas tradition would endear herself to her nieces, who are very excited to see their aunt in action, Kovalenko said. Even the show wasn't filmed during the holidays, Kovalenko said it wasn't hard to get into the Christmas spirit.
Kovalenko said she loves making specialty themed songs that tell a person's story.
"Each cake has a story to tell," Kovalenko said. "You can learn something special about each person. You have to have a passion for what you do and a desire to make something good."
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