Canyon Ridge Middle School sixth-grader Madison Totaro is fulfilling a lifelong dream by competing on the the Food Network baking program, “Kids Baking Championship.”
The program’s first episode aired last week, and the season runs through March.
Madison is one of a dozen school-aged children competing and one of three from Texas. The winner, according Food Network, will receive, “the sweet grand prize of $25,000, a feature in Food Network Magazine, and the title of Kids Baking Champion.”
Madison lives in the Steiner Ranch area with her parents, Mindy and Paul, and her younger sister, Makayla.
For Mikayla, the opportunity to participate in the televised baking competition is just one step on her dream pathway.
“I started baking around when I was three or four,” Madison said. “Whenever my grandma came over, we would bake a lot and have a lot of fun.”
They started out with the basics, such as cupcakes and rice crispy treats, Madison explained. She gradually learned to bake more complex items like pies and tarts.
Besides baking together, the two regularly watched the “Kids Baking Championship” program.
“I told my grandma my dream is to be on that show when I’m older,” said Madison.
“I always worked toward it,” she said. “And then there was this audition... We had to send in pictures, videos of me baking and stuff like that.”
For her audition, she filmed herself baking tarts, cakes, eclairs and macrons among other things. But, Madison said cupcakes are her favorite to bake, because “you can do so much with them.”
Madison’s parents balance her passion for baking with one rule: “I have to give it away or else they’re going to get fat,” she explained with a giggle.
Food Network called one night around 9 p.m. to announce the results of the auditions. Madison was already in bed.
“My parents came in the room,” she said, “and they were like, ‘We got a call and you didn’t make it.’ And I got sad. And then they were like, ‘Just kidding! You made it!’ And I was screaming.”
Though excited for her daughter, mom Mindy naturally had reservations about Madison appearing on national television.
“As a parent I was nervous,” Mindy said, noting that she was unsure what type of experience the network would provide.
Once the show started production in New Orleans, however, all her fears evaporated.
“The cast was awesome, and all the producers and everybody at the network was just wonderful to work with,” said Mindy. “They encouraged the kids. There's really not any negativity. I was a great, positive experience.”
Madison was thrilled to meet the show’s celebrity judges Duff Goldman and Valerie Bertinelli. “They encouraged us and they really did help us,” said Madison. “They really are great people.”
Madison also loved the studio, which housed a typical Food Network fully-stocked pantry.
“Everything was there. It was kind of like a great big shop,” Madison said, explaining that the baking competitors needed the fully-stocked pantry. “Every episode was a twist, something different from your everyday baking.”
For their first competition, the bakers made bacon cupcakes. Madison, who had never made bacon before, used it as an opportunity to channel her dad.
“My dad normally cooks bacon. And he makes it awesome,” she said. “So I just remembered (or tried to) everything that he does in the morning.”
Madison said her mother Mindy, along with other parents, were at the studio during filming.
“(They) just weren't in the same area as the kids baking, and that's probably for a good reason,” Madison said.
“You would think we would (get a lot of rest), just sitting around and waiting for the kids,” said Mindy. “But you were just too excited or nervous… (There) was not a lot of sleep.”
When not in production, Madison and Mindy used their time to explore New Orleans and its food including Cafe du Monde, where they had beignets.
“They were so good,” said Madison, though by then end, both she and her mom were generously dusted with powdered sugar. “I got some everywhere!” including in both of their purses.
And after years of just watching other competition shows, Madison said she now has, “a new appreciation for kids that are on TV shows,” and no longer questions the decisions made by bakers competing against a clock.
Madison learned quickly that the most challenging part of competing was, “the time limit… I had to… make my baking a little bit faster.”
To do so, she practiced for weeks at home with a stopwatch. “I just timed myself and tried to get myself to be a little bit faster each time.”
Madison’s schoolmates have learned that Madison will appear on “Kids Baking Championship,” and she is regularly asked at school if she won the competition.
“And I’ll be like, I can’t tell you! And they get so mad,” she said.
They will have to wait along with everyone else, for the end of the season to learn the outcome. She and her family watched the premier with family and friends on Jan. 7, and will be watching each Monday through the end of the season to see the results.
“We’re going to watch it with friends and family,” she said. “My best friends are going to come over.”
Madison’s next dream is to have a signature line of bakeware and to own a bakery. Until then, Madison cherishes the experience of having been on the show and especially the new friends she made. “They were amazing,” she gushes. “I met a great group of friends (on the show), and we all text each other.”
Win or lose, Madison remembers the perspective her parents gave her from the beginning. “What my mom and my dad would tell me is that, ‘You’ve done such a great accomplishment even getting on the show. And even if you don’t win, you still made it. You still did an amazing job.’ And I just thought that was a great thing for them to say.”
To follow along on Madison’s journey, subscribe to her account, Madison_Bakes, on Instagram and tune in to the Food Network Mondays at 8 p.m.