San Antonio 7th grader to compete on Food Network's Kid's Baking Championship

We sat down with 11-year-old Lila Smethurst to get the scoop on her television debut.

click to enlarge Lila Smethurst, a San Antonio 7th grader, will make her Food Network debut Jan 1. - Courtesy Photo / Food Network
Courtesy Photo / Food Network
Lila Smethurst, a San Antonio 7th grader, will make her Food Network debut Jan 1.
Food Network’s competition series Kids Baking Championship will return for a new season Jan. 1, and the Alamo City will be represented by an enterprising young baker.

San Antonio 7th grader Lila Smethurst will make her TV debut on the program, which pits a dozen kid bakers against each other in challenges inspired by the best parts of the school year. The winner will receive a $25,000 grand prize, a spot in Food Network Magazine, and the title of Kids Baking Champion.

The next season of Kids Baking Championship will premiere Monday, Jan. 1, at 7 p.m. CST. Smethurst will be joined by two other Texas contestants: 10-year-old Anaiah Hodges of Manvel, and 9-year-old Elsie Stark of Abilene.

We sat down with the 11-year-old San Antonio foodie to chat about what drives her passion for baking and what she thought of her time on the set of the cooking competition.

What got you interested in baking?

I've always loved cooking. I can remember being like 2 or 3 years old and sitting on the counter helping either my mom or my Nana make a box cake mix or maybe some pancakes. When I was in 2nd grade, my mom got cancer, so we were at home for a while while she was recovering, and we would watch the show together. And then I'd just be like, "OK, I'm gonna go try to make whatever they were making." So, I kept watching the show and practicing, and then a couple years later, when COVID hit, we were again at home for a while doing virtual school. I would log on to math and do my lesson, and then I would come downstairs and bake during my time off before I had another class. And at one point, I asked my mom if I could apply, and she said that she didn't quite think I was ready yet. And so I said, "OK, I'm gonna keep practicing." So I kept getting better, and now here we are.

Is this something you think you want to pursue long term?

I do, it can always change, you know, depending on what I find that I like better. But right now I want to go to Texas A&M University and get a business degree. And then I want to go to Cordon Bleu in France and go to pastry school.

click to enlarge Lila Smethurst competes on Kids Baking Championship. - Courtesy Photo / Food Network
Courtesy Photo / Food Network
Lila Smethurst competes on Kids Baking Championship.
What's your favorite thing right now to to create?

Right now, since it's sort of around the holidays, I'm on more of a decorating kick. I make pies that have a really pretty lattice on top, or if I make a pecan pie, I'll do a pattern with the pecans. I like to also make fruit tarts for Christmas. I like using the different fruits, their colors and shapes and sizes. I haven't done one before, but I want to try a Yule log and decorate it with maybe some Christmas trees and maybe make a snowman out of marshmallows or something fun like that.

Let’s talk about your experience on set. Can you tell me what the most exciting thing was? And maybe what the most scary thing was?

I think that definitely the most exciting was meeting [show hosts Valerie Bertinelli and baker Duff Goldman]. It was definitely a very surreal surreal moment. Especially for me, because I love them. I definitely look up to them as amazing chefs. Another amazing part of the whole experience on set was the other bakers. It was awesome getting to meet other kids … having that little family that all has the same passion of baking.

One of the scariest, hardest things was not being in my own kitchen. Because in my own kitchen, I've been baking there my whole life, so I know where everything is. But figuring out which fridge is a freezer and having a huge pantry with lots of stuff that I don't have at home was definitely very different. Getting used to the resources that I had there, versus what I have at home, because you know, we don't have like an airbrush and all the different colors of food coloring and fondant and stuff like that.

What does baking do for you? How does it help you fill your cup?

The bottom line of my passion for baking is really that I like to eat. I mean, I like to eat good food, good desserts. So it just sort of like naturally came upon me to make good food. And that makes me just feel good overall, to be in the kitchen and have the freedom of, ‘oh, I can make this or I can make this.’ I just think it's very sort of artistic. But it's like a balance of creativity and science. It's just something that I love doing in my free time.

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Nina Rangel

Nina Rangel uses nearly 20 years of experience in the foodservice industry to tell the stories of movers and shakers in the food scene in San Antonio. As the Food + Nightlife Editor for the San Antonio Current, she showcases her passion for the Alamo City’s culinary community by promoting local flavors, uncovering...

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