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When you hear him talk about his experience as a contestant on Food Network’s Kids Baking Championship, you get the sense that it was destiny, as Avner Schwartz was clearly ready to compete. A lifelong baking enthusiast (he’s now 13, by the way), Schwartz started helping his mom in the kitchen as a 4-year-old.
“It started with meatballs,” he explained. “I love being in the kitchen with my mom and spending time with her. Plus the mixing and getting my hands into it, and even licking my fingers as much as I wanted, calling it ‘tasting’ and not getting in trouble.”
How did he end up baking on TV, then? He saw someone baking on a YouTube video and was inspired to give it a try. He made brownies, cookies and cakes — pretty much anything he saw on YouTube, and he kept at it. He says he got really into the decorating aspect in 2016, and knew with practice he’d get better. So, he spent a lot of time in the kitchen to elevate his skills. In fact, he’s completely self-taught.
“Creativity comes naturally to me; it’s in my blood, as my mom is an interior designer,” Schwartz explained. “I love sewing and got a sewing machine when I was seven, so I started making clothes for my little sister — and the cat. I’ve made wallets, dresses, sweatshirts and more. I like to work with glass, too, and glass-blowing making flowers and necklaces. I also made homemade, organic body products — my first online sales through my company ‘Gingee Says.’”
It’s amazing to consider that Schwartz was able to juggle those passions and school. At this writing, he was halfway through eighth grade — in the middle of a pandemic. When we chatted, he’d just started back to classes fully in-person, and then was sent back to virtual learning right before Thanksgiving. Still, he said he was “thrilled and happy to get that time in-person,” and was hopeful that school would resume in-person again soon.
“Virtual learning is stressful, and I really missed seeing my friends,” he added.
But Schwartz is no stranger to hard work and stressful situations. Season 8 of Kids Baking Championship on the Food Network, as we see it, was a polished, fast-paced show. But so much goes on behind the scenes to prep and train the kid contestants to shine in front of the cameras.
“I’d always watched Kids Baking Championship,” Schwartz said. “I’d try what I saw, kept watching, got better and started posting to Food Network’s Instagram using #kidsbakingchampionship. One day they commented and said, ‘You should apply.’ So I did!”
When he got the call the first step was to talk to a casting producer, followed by months of interviews. He was then flown to Los Angeles with 20 other kids, which was quickly winnowed down to 12 kids.
“It was crazy … surreal! We had a few days of ‘bootcamp’ where we had tours of the kitchen, practiced baking, honed some skills and then we started filming,” he added. “The days were really long, but so much fun, and I learned a lot. They helped us prepare for being interviewed, and taught us about how TV shows work.”
Schwartz made it through six episodes before being eliminated, which was, of course, hard. “I was grateful for the experience, and I learned a lot,” he noted. “But, I was really upset. I’d been there for almost a month and got to know a lot of people who became friends. Still, I was happy to come back home and everyone here. I’m very thankful.”
Of all the things we admire about Schwartz, a key one is that he was able to keep quiet about the experience! The show filmed in June 2019 and came out in January 2020; he wasn’t allowed to disclose his participation until September 2019 and couldn’t talk about his elimination episode or the winner until those times came. We are impressed!
We were also impressed with his answer when we asked if he plans on going to culinary school. “I don’t know yet — I’m only 13. Why should I be thinking about college right now? I’m really passionate about Gingee Says [his business], and I love to work on it. It’s exciting and fun, and I learn new things every day. I’m excited to elevate my baking.”
Schwartz’s current passion is macarons — and, he sells almost everything he makes! It’s also his favorite thing to bake right now — “that’s always changing” — because it’s fancier, beautiful and really tasty. Those interested can DM him on Instagram. Note that he sells out fast, especially for holidays.
We threw Schwartz a bit of a curve for our final question, and were impressed with his answer, once again. We asked him that if he had to be something other than a baker, what would that be? His answer: A lawyer.
“It seems fun,” he explained. “My dad and my grandpa are lawyers. I love to argue, so being in court would a great challenge. It’s something you can really put your mind to to resolve.”
The baking lawyer, maybe? Whatever Schwartz decides to do, we are certain he’ll be successful. We’re proud of this Delco kid!