By Angie Fenton
Photos by Danny Alexander
BAKING DYNAMO WINS MESA’S FIRST-EVER KIDS BAKING COMPETITION
Lydia Sprigler rushed into MESA, A Collaborative Kitchen in downtown New Albany, her face flushed, hair pulled back into a tight ponytail, carrying the now-cold sweet bread she’d baked to audition for the venue’s inaugural Kids Baking Competition.
The Highland Hills Middle School student had just come from volleyball practice, recalled her mother Adrienne Sprigler, and was surrounded by budding chefs 8- to 13 years old carrying their own freshly-baked versions of delectable breads, eager to impress the judges.
Then, the auditions began – and Lydia was selected to go first.
Despite serving up a cold version of her sweet bread and arriving straight from her athletic practice, the judges were impressed with her knowledge and passion. When they whittled down the group of 30 hopefuls, Lydia soon learned she had been selected to compete in the first round along with five other competitors.
In the initial round, the 13-year-old and her peers created cookies by scratch in front of a live audience. Judges, attendees and online voters picked Lydia and three others the best bakers of the evening.
In round two, the four creative cooks each baked 24 donuts from their favorite recipe in 1.5 hours. At the end of the night, Lydia – along with her peers Jayla and Sierra – advanced to the finale.
Round three, the final leg of the competition, required each baker to produce 24 cupcakes and once again wow the judges, those voting online and the live audience at MESA, 216 Pearl St., where the contest had been hosted. Hundreds of people watched the finale via Facebook Live, many sending comments of support for their favorite competitor. (This writer observed the girls in person and was impressed by all three.)
When the finale was finished, each baker received comments from the judges, including constructive criticism and helpful advice. “Lydia, you’ve been smashing it every single week – I’ve ever had.”
“YOUR OATMEAL COOKIES – THOSE WERE THE MOST WONDERFUL COOKIES I’VE EVER HAD.” –CHEF LIZ MARTINO TO 13-YEAR-OLD BAKER LYDIA SPRIGLER, WINNER OF MESA, A COLLABORATIVE KITCHEN’S FIRST-EVER KIDS BAKING COMPETITION
“This entire competition, you’ve just been consistently in the top,” added Adrienne Holland of Adrienne & Co. Bakery and Café at the finale. “You’ve really been knocking it out of the park. I love your no-nonsense approach.”
Lydia listened intently, her face serious, as the judges then suggested she slightly lessen her use of bold flavors with a whipped cream filling to stave off overpowering tastes and use the most of her time since she was first to finish.
Anxiously, the three girls lined up against the counter as Liz and Adrienne prepared to announce the champion: “And the winner of MESA, A Collaborative Kitchen’s first annual Kids Baking Competition is Lydia!” said Adrienne, as guests applauded.
“Waiting for the results, that was nerve-wracking,” admitted Lydia, though there was another moment during the contest that was a bit stressful, too. “In the donut round and my oven wasn’t working. But then (the judges) decided to give everyone an extra 20 minutes. That was probably real nerve-wracking.”
In addition to winning a feature in these pages of Extol, a $100 gift card to MESA KIDS and a tote with baking goodies, Lydia will be the guest of honor at the Extol Magazine launch party hosted by MESA 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. June 21. She’ll debut her winning cupcake at the free, family-friendly event, which will also include appetizers by a local chef and plenty of giveaways.
The best part, said Lydia, was “having my friends and family there and also practicing it and letting the judges taste what I was making.” But, she added, “winning the competition was fun too.”
For mom, though, it was more than fun. “I ways knew she’s had a creative outlet in her,” said Adrienne Sprigler. “Along the way, she always wanted to help in the kitchen. She’s always wanted to bake and decorate cupcakes and cookies. So, what (this competition) has done is its fueled a fire. It’s highlighted something she has a knack for. Who knows what’s coming next because she’s just started.”
LIFE WITH LYDIA
• The 13-year-old Floyds Knobs resident is the daughter of Adrienne and Chris Sprigler, has a brother, Harrison, 16, a black lab named Mae, a mini schnauzer named Junie and a dwarf hamster named pipsqueak. • Lydia will enter the 8th grade when school starts and is an all A student. She enjoys art classes but could “do without health and PE.”
• When it comes to eating out, Lydia enjoys Bella Roma, Israel’s Delicias De Mexico Gourmet, Come Back Inn, Olive Garden and Berry Twist and Adrienne & Co. Bakery and Café for desserts.
• Lydia is a gifted athlete who enjoys volleyball. But her other interests include all things craft. “I’m pretty crafty. I have a craft room. I’m pretty much crafty, sporty and I like to bake. I like snuggling with my dogs. And I have a trampoline too. That’s what I like to do.”
• Lydia’s love of baking began with her grandma, Terri Sprigler. “I bake with her all the time. It was kind of like ‘Karate Kid’ where she was training me.”
• “Go out and try it. If I didn’t win this competition, I would probably keep baking. If you like (some thing), try it. Keep practicing and go after your dreams. Just do what makes you happy. You have one life and just live it to the fullest.”
MESA KIDS COMING SOON
MESA, A Collaborative Kitchen will soon have a kid-friendly counterpart. MESA KIDS, 154 E. Main St. in New Albany, opens this summer and is specifically designed just for kids who want to learn how to bake and cook (or better their current skills). Features include classes and summer camps taught by culinary experts, as well as birthday parties and a unique Black Coat Program geared toward young chefs who are super serious about developing their culinary techniques and talents. Learn more about MESA KIDS at mesakidscookingschool. com and @mesakidscookingschool on Facebook.