Local baker Anna Simeonides advanced to the second round of the “Christmas Cookie Matchup” on Hallmark Drama this week.

The cooking-competition reality show, Hallmark’s first, pits six bakers against each other in five episodes as they compete for a $25,000 prize.

Simeonides, 23, is the owner of To Your Health Bakery, 1263 Creekshire Way in the Shoppes on Little Creek off Hanes Mall Boulevard.

She is the only baker on the show from North Carolina. “And I’m the youngest,” she said.

Simeonides said that a friend suggested she audition for the show. That involved submitting 30 recipes as well as a video. “On the video, I sang Christmas carols and I talked about all my Christmas sweaters — I have about 50 of them. I just really love Christmas,” she said.

For the first week’s episode, Simeonides made apple caramel butterscotch cookies.

At To Your Health, she specializes in gluten-free and vegan baked goods. For the sake of the competition, though, she did bake some conventional cookies.

This past week, she has been featuring a gluten-free, vegan version of the apple caramel butterscotch cookies at To Your Health. That cookie won her a ribbon at the Dixie Classic Fair when she was still in high school.

Simeonides has to keep mum for a little bit longer on how far she advanced on the show, which was filmed in July. But she said that the experience was a lot of fun. And unlike a lot of other cooking competition shows, there’s not a lot of personal drama. “There’s drama, but it has to do with the baking. It’s heartwarming,” she said. “I like that the show really focuses on the baking.”

She said she felt lucky to be on the show because the six contestants were chosen from 1,600 applicants. “One of the great things about it is you learn a lot in a short amount of time,” she said. “You grow exponentially as a baker.”

New episodes of “Christmas Cookie Matchup” are shown at 9 p.m. Wednesdays on Hallmark Drama. (It is available in our area on channel 564 on DirectTV and 186 on Dish, but also through such streaming sites as frndlytv.com.) Reruns are shown several times throughout the week.

“This has been the best experience of my life,” Simeonides said of the show. “I want to do more.”

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Recipe by Anna Simeonides

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