(Abilene, Texas) Wylie West Junior High fifth grader Elsie Stark is one of a dozen kid bakers nationwide to compete in the Emmy-nominated Kids Baking Championship, which will air on Food Network at 7 p.m. CT on Monday, Jan. 1. Elsie, who is a very poised young lady that lights up a room, shares the challenges of being the youngest baker, the sweetness of friendships made on set, and the lessons she values from being on the show.
“It was cool being the youngest because others had more experience than me and that made me want to prove I was just as good as them,” said Elsie. However, Elsie says having fewer years of experience didn’t present as much of a challenge as having to adjust to not baking in her own kitchen. “I was too short for everything and had to stand on a stool. I doubled my apron to shorten it and tied it around my waist twice.”
Elsie says while she went in wondering if it would feel very competitive, she was surprised at how the overall attitude amongst her fellow bakers was one of support. “I had an in-it-to-win-it attitude, but when I met the others that changed. Competing almost became a side part I forgot about because the other kids were so nice.” In addition to making new friends, Elsie said she enjoyed hearing new perspectives on baking and tips from kids who share her interest.
Today, the bakers stay in touch and that includes the parents. Christi Stark, Elsie’s mom, says it’s not just her daughter who gained friends; she and another mom communicate daily. The parents and kids have group threads to stay in touch, which Christi imagines will be buzzing with texts shooting back-in-forth as each family watches the series together from their various locations around the U.S.
During the 10 episodes, the kids face baking challenges based on the latest dessert trends and most popular treats, each inspired by a school activity. Betsy Ayala, Head of Content, Food for Warner Bros. Discovery, said the theme of school is perfect for the new season of the show. “The new challenges capture the essence of the school experience with every dessert.” Each challenge required the kids to display their baking skills and knowledge as well as create desserts visually appealing and tasty.
The challenges range from baking a picture day portrait cake (seen in the first episode) to hopscotch blondies to school spirit tie-dyed donuts and ice cream to the finale-worthy, science project volcano cake. For Elsie, being able to show off her baking finesse about something she loves was fun and rewarding. She said the opportunity to participate in the Kids Baking Championship taught her to be a “braver” baker and how to manage her skills better. “Baking within a time limit was stressful, but I learned to not get distracted by other things.”
As for which dessert challenge Elsie liked best, she didn’t give a hint, nor did she hint as to how the show ends. Not. One. What I do know is I’ll be watching with great anticipation to see if the coolest little baker I’ve had the pleasure to meet walks away with the title of Kids Baking Champion, a title that comes with coverage in Food Network Magazine and a $25,000 grand prize. The other thing I know is that the best part of all is we get to call Elsie one of ours – a Wylie Bulldog – and that is something to make a stir about.
By Kristen Johnson
Photos Courtesy of Food Network