Rochester Hills native competes in Food Network’s ‘Haunted Gingerbread Showdown’

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published October 8, 2019

 Donna Rorabaugh, of Rochester Hills, will appear on the Oct. 13 edition of “Haunted Gingerbread Showdown” on Food Network.

Donna Rorabaugh, of Rochester Hills, will appear on the Oct. 13 edition of “Haunted Gingerbread Showdown” on Food Network.

Photo provided by Food Network


ROCHESTER HILLS — Donna Rorabaugh, of Rochester Hills, will appear on Food Network’s “Haunted Gingerbread Showdown” this weekend.

“Haunted Gingerbread Showdown” — which premiered Oct. 6 on Food Network — features nine gingerbread artists competing for the approval of judges Jamika Pessoa, Gesine Prado and Jason Smith to get to the finale.

Rorabaugh’s episode will air at 10 p.m. Oct. 13 on Food Network.

Host Clinton Kelly challenges three gingerbread artists to create pieces that depict the chaos of an alien attack. The competitor who can win over the judges earns a spot in the finale to compete for $25,000 and a feature in Food Network Magazine.

Rorabaugh made her first gingerbread house at the age of 13.

“I was in the library and I found a kids cookbook. I looked through it and there was a gingerbread house, and I said, ‘OK, I’m going to make my own,’” she said. “I’ve been making them ever since. ... I’ve really advanced since then.”

An engineer at General Motors by day, Rorabaugh said she enjoys the technical aspects that come along with creating gingerbread houses and adding her own artistic flair.

“Lately I’ve been working toward a more organic look, so it’s not quite as structured. I’ve done a lot of fairy houses,” she said.

Nowadays, Rorabaugh creates large showcase gingerbread houses and submits them for competitions in many different states, including the National Gingerbread House Competition at The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa in Asheville, N.C. She has placed fourth in the national competition two times, and one of her creations was featured on “Good Morning America.”

It’s no surprise that Rorabaugh’s talents caught the attention of Food Network producers, who encouraged her to apply for “Haunted Gingerbread Showdown.”

Although she was a little hesitant at first, she decided to give it a go.

“It’s totally outside my comfort zone to go on something like this and be timed and be criticized, and everything you do is on TV. I was pretty nervous,” she said. “One of the things I told myself was, ‘You’re not going to cry on TV.’”

With just one month to prepare for the show, Rorabaugh got right to work, buying supplies, creating structures and, of course, baking.

“You’re allowed to bake, but then you have to ship the pieces to the show,” she said. “It’s really intimidating, because they don’t let you look at your pieces. You ship them, and they are there in the studio. So the first day, you go in and open them up, and you haven’t been allowed to see them until that point.”

To find out how far Rorabaugh advances, tune in to Food Network on Sunday nights at 10 p.m. The finale will air at 10 p.m. Oct. 27.

“I think it would be fun if people could watch and cheer me on,” she said.