Meet the Competitors of Holiday Baking Championship, Season 2

Get to know the 10 bakers competing for a chance to win $50,000 and the title of Holiday Baking Champion.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Contenders for the Championship

Home bakers and pastry professionals from across the country have entered the Holiday Baking Championship, ready to face holiday-themed challenges for a chance to earn a spot in the finale — and potentially walk away $50,000 richer.

Adalberto Diaz — Salt Lake City

Growing up in communist Cuba, Adalberto first learned how to bake from his grandma when he was just 9 years old. He attended college for computer science, but when the government collapsed, he had to stop his schooling. He turned to running a bakery, although illegal at the time, as his creative outlet. He moved to the United States when he was 28 and eventually became a pastry chef and teacher. Adalberto now runs Fillings and Emulsions Bakery, which is all about unique baked goods.

Briana Johnson — Dallas

Social worker by day, Briana is a home baker by night, often taking orders for friends and co-workers. She is completely self-taught in the kitchen and names the Easy-Bake Oven as one of her early influences. She's always been the caretaker in her family and finds solace in baking, preferring to bake instead of play sports when she was a kid. Decorated cookies and bar desserts are her signature items.

Haley Miller — Beaver Dam, Ky.

Surrounded by family members who all loved to bake, especially around holiday gatherings, Haley was inspired to become a baker herself. She first learned her craft on her grandparents' farm and later attended culinary school before opening her bakery, Kentucky Wildflour Cakes. Haley still considers the holiday time special and spends it with her husband, her daughter and her large family of up to 60 people.

Joe Settepani — Staten Island, N.Y.

Coming from a long line of pastry chefs, Joe never imagined he would follow in his father's footsteps. Instead Joe wanted to do graphic arts. But a trip to Italy with his dad changed his mind. Joe attended The Culinary Institute of America and interned at the French Pastry School in Chicago. He is currently a pastry sous chef and enjoys coming up with unique mash-ups, like briclaires (brioche and eclair).

John Marasco — Westlake Village, Calif.

John's first memory of baking was when his dad would take him to work at the family bakery and make him grease pans at 3 years old. But later on, working at the bakery became a form of punishment. After being in the military for five years, John realized he missed baking and soon started dabbling in it. He's currently a firefighter, and he enjoys cooking for the crew. John is married with two young children, and he's looking forward to creating new holiday traditions.

Maeve Rochford — San Diego

Maeve claims she was born baking, pinpointing the Irish side of her family as her biggest influence. She loves to bake cakes with Guinness, mincemeat pies and other classic Irish recipes, especially savory baked goods. Maeve describes her style as whimsical but very structured, and she believes you need to do it right the first time. She's a former competitive rower, so competition comes naturally. Maeve is the owner of Sugar and Scribe Bakery and Fine Food.

Melody Larsen — Mesa, Ariz.

Baking was the unofficial business on the Larsen family farm, and Melody had the opportunity to grow up right in the center of it; that's where she learned the value of hard work. Instead of going right into baking, Melody started a family and now has three grown boys. Although she isn't formally trained, she runs her own operation, Sassy's Cafe and Bakery, named for her childhood nickname.

Padua Player — Washington, D.C.

While growing up, Padua found escape in baking, which he learned from his mother. He stumbled into the culinary world when he walked into a restaurant with a help wanted sign and applied for the job. He started out as a dishwasher and eventually befriended the pastry chef. He is a graduate of Baltimore International Culinary College, and he's currently the owner of SugaChef Desserts, LLC. His holiday favorites include sweet potato pie, bread pudding and peppermint bark.

Steve Konopelski — Denton, Md.

This Canadian grew up surrounded by berry patches on his family farm in Saskatchewan, and he learned how to bake from his Ukrainian grandma. Steve began a career as a Broadway dancer, but when that came to an end he rediscovered baking, eventually graduating from The French Culinary Institute. With his husband, he now owns and runs Turnbridge Point, a bed and breakfast where he is the pastry chef. Steve's holiday traditions include Ukrainian breads and American cookies.

Susan Steffan — Galena, Ill.

Never having had formal training, Susan considers life her training ground. Sweets have always been at the center of the table in her Italian family, and Susan learned much of what she knows from her grandma. Originally a teacher, Susan now owns and operates, along with her husband, the bed and breakfast Farmers Guest House. Susan's holiday traditions include making gingerbread houses and cannoli yule logs.

More Holiday Baking Championship

Get more from the competition by going behind the scenes of the baking battles, learn more about the host and judges, and get inspired to bake this holiday season.

Holiday Baking Championship