Kailua’s Taylor Inouye Makes the Finale in “Kids Baking Championship”

Mini guava bundt cakes and banana sugar cookies took this eighth grader to the final show, which airs Sept. 17.
Taylor Inouye, a 12-year-old from Kailua, reaches the finals in Food Network’s Kids Baking Championship, which airs tonight.
Photos: Courtesy of Food Network


I’ve been a big fan of Food Network’s Kids Baking Championship since the first season aired in 2015. Back then, the winner—it was the 13-year-old perfectionist Hollis Johnson from Florida who won with a lemon cake in the finale—earned $10,000, a full kitchen remodel for their parents’ home, a story in Food Network Magazine and the winning cake sold as a re-creation by Goldman’s Charm City Cakes. The kids were crazy talented and hilarious. The hosts—Duff Goldman and Valerie Bertinelli—offered the right balance of approachable, supportive and critical to the contestants. And the challenges were fun—nothing like the intensity of Chopped or Cutthroat Kitchen.


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Meaning the show didn’t stress me out.


Until this season, that is. Turns out, one of the contestants is the daughter of an old friend, so I had more emotional investment this time around.



Twelve-year-old Taylor Inouye—#crazytay, as she’s known on social media—started off strong by winning the first challenge—#selfieclairs—on Episode 1. Since then, she’s wowed the judges with her precision, flavors, creativity and the amazing ability to switch directions midway through the challenge, earning her the nickname “The Do-Over Queen” by Bertinelli.


The eighth grader at Hongwanji Mission School is now in the finale of the show, in its fifth season. Her grandma was her inspiration for last week’s challenge. Taylor made mini guava bundt cakes—her grandma has a guava tree in her yard—and used her grandma’s recipe to make sugar cookies, which landed her in the Top 3. (Goldman said her bundt cakes “took us straight to Hawai‘i.”)


Even before I realized I knew her dad, Taylor was one of my favorite contestants. She’s spunky, creative, talented—and she gives the best looks of exasperation at every challenge twist. I can just imagine her in staff meetings when she’s an adult.


We caught up with Taylor to find out how she prepared for the show, what she’s been baking for the Kids Baking Championship viewings at her school, and what she’s planning to do with the $25,000 prize money if she wins.


HONOLULU MAGAZINE: I’m always so nervous for you! And you seem so confident. How do you really feel while filming?

Taylor Inouye: There were definitely some stressful moments during the bakes—like Episode 2 when my cake and buttercream failed!—but overall it was really fun. I got really close with the other bakers so it mostly felt like I was just baking with my friends. In some episodes, you can hear me talking to them while I’m baking …. I’m a chatty baker. I think I’m just chatty in general (like my dad!).


HM: When did you start baking? (I know your dad, so I’m assuming he’s not who taught you!)

TI:  I started helping my grandma when I was in kindergarten (around 5 years old). She really inspired me to learn how to bake. She loves baking, which isn’t surprising because she’s a retired science teacher. There’s a lot of science in baking.


HM: What are your go-to desserts?

TI: I love making cakes; my chocolate cake is my favorite to make. I also enjoy making macarons, though not in the summer months because the humidity can make it challenging.


HM: Do you cook, too?

TI: I do enjoy cooking, but baking is definitely my passion.


HM: What’s been your favorite challenge so far on the show?

TI: The first episode (#selfieclairs) was my favorite. Not because I won that one, though that was pretty cool. It was my favorite because that initial feeling of walking on the set for the first time, meeting Duff and Val, and cooking in the kitchen for the first time is indescribable.


HM: What was the hardest?

TI: The dessert imposter challenge was definitely the hardest for me. It’s funny because it has always been my favorite to watch, but actually doing it is totally different. There are so many elements to it and trying to create a beautiful and delicious dessert item that looks like a savory item is definitely challenging!


HM: How do you come up with these desserts? It seems like you barely have any time to think!

TI: I tried to be unique and make dessert items or flavors that the other bakers weren’t making. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.


HM: What are Duff and Valerie like?

TI: They are both really, really nice. Val is comforting and nurturing and Duff is really funny and has so much knowledge about baking.


HM: Had you watched the show before? Did you know what to expect?

TI: I watched all the previous seasons so I was familiar with the show and had an idea of what to expect. Still nothing really prepares you for that first day when you walk on to the set. It was amazing, scary, exciting and intimidating all combined.


HM: How did you prepare for the show? Did you practice?

TI: I applied for the show and, at that point, I was baking once in a while for fun but not too often since I was busy with school and my other activities. When I did hear back, things moved along very quickly and I didn’t really have a lot of time to practice.


HM: What do you want to do when you’re older? Do you want to own your own bakery or go to culinary school?

TI: I definitely want to go to culinary school and become a pastry chef. If I could become the next Christina Tosi that would be amazing! Her story on Chef’s Table was very inspiring.


HM: What’s been the reaction so far from your family and friends?

TI: Everyone has been really supportive, excited and happy for me. Watching each episode has been a little stressful for my grandparents. My grandma is my baking idol and she was featured in a few of my stories on Kids Baking Championship, so she’s also had to learn to deal with some media exposure! Can I give her a shout out here? HI GRANDMA!!!


HM: Your dad told me you’re baking for the screenings at Hongwanji. What have you made so far?

TI: Here are the things I’ve made: Episode 1: chocolate and vanilla cupcakes; browned butter with toffee chip cookies. Episode 2: mini chocolate doughnuts with ginger glaze topped with Reese’s Pieces candies. Episode 3: mini red velvet doughnuts with homemade strawberry ice cream. Episode 4: mini apple pies. Episode 5: mini tarts with popcorn pastry cream topped with chocolate ganache. Episode 6: mini guava doughnuts with vanilla glaze and banana sugar cookies. Episode 7: push-up rainbow cake with lemon curd and buttercream.


HM: What have you learned so far from being on the show?

TI: As the queen of having to redo my items, I definitely learned to work quickly, efficiently, but also with caution and precision. Rushing and making mistakes is never a good thing when it comes to baking. I also learned how to improve on my time-management and multitasking skills. Duff gave me lots of helpful pointers on baking, like letting my dough rest before putting it in the oven. And most importantly, I learned a lot about myself! Perseverance, believing in myself and staying calm even when things aren’t going right got me through some challenging times.


HM: And what are you planning to do with the $25,000 if you win?

TI: If I win, I plan to save most of the money for culinary school and use some of it to travel and visit the friends I made on Kids Baking Championship.


Kids Baking Championship airs at 6 p.m. Monday and reairs at 9 p.m. on the Food Network.