Ten-year-old Reese Smith, baker extraordinaire, was one of 12 kids selected to compete on Food Network's Kids Baking Championship.
“I became interested in baking probably when my mom opened her bakery,” he said.
Smith’s mother, Renea Smith, is the owner of Cake Crumbs, a popular bakery in Southfield. Renea ran the business out of her home for many years and then opened a storefront in Southfield three years ago. The Food Network discovered Reese through Cake Crumbs.
“I didn’t have the idea or intention of getting on the show,” Reese said. “They sometimes call bakeries and they called my mom’s bakery.”
The young pasty pro had observed his mother creating edible masterpieces for years. Before long, Reese was cooking alongside her. The fifth grader from Bloomfield Hills showed exceptional ingenuity in the kitchen and proved he had acquired his mother’s culinary chops.
“(Reese) was our breakfast and smoothie guy. He would help with dinner,” Renea said. “When the bakery opened, he became more interested in pastries.”
Reese visits his mom’s confectionery paradise frequently.
“I go (to Cake Crumbs) a lot, especially in the summer,” he said. “My favorite things to bake are orange scones. I use all natural ingredients and squeeze (oranges) to get the juice. It gives it color, too.”
Reese submitted videos and interviewed with show executives via Facetime and Skype. The network was impressed with his prowess, and he was selected to compete against 11 other kids for $25,000 and the coveted title of Kid’s Baking Champion. The show, hosted by Duff Goldman and Valerie Bertinelli, premiered in January 2017.
“August (2016) was the first taping,” Reese said. “I left August 2, and my grandma went with me.” Soon after, Reese’s siblings and cousins joined him in Los Angeles to offer their support during the competition. “My sister and brother were excited. They wanted to know stuff, but I couldn’t tell them.”
During the competition, the East Hills Middle School student made pancakes out of cake batter, lava cakes, carnival cupcakes, ice cream and éclairs. During breaks from taping, Reese had a memorable time on the west coast.
“It was really exciting,” he said. “I was there for three weeks and we stayed at the Beverly Hills Hotel. It wasn’t tiring at all. It was exciting, especially when we went down and had parties at the pool.”
Back home, Reese is an athletic kid who enjoys football, soccer, basketball, swimming and of course, cooking. He has aspirations of becoming an actor and is already experiencing the thrill of celebrity.
“Last week, I was at the (Original) Pancake House in Southfield and someone recognized me,” he said. “Some people who come to the bakery ask if I’m there.”
Even though his mother, who is his greatest mentor and boundless supporter, was unable to take time from the bakery to join Reese during taping, she spoke with him frequently to offer guidance and advice.
“My mom is very encouraging,” Reese said. “Everything I really know about baking came from my mom.”
Photo: Jean Lannen