First published in the Sept. 4 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
Kids often rave about eating cake. Two local students are thrilled about baking them.
Emerson Chong and Connor Kim, both in the 5th grade, appeared as a sugar-shaping duo on Friday’s episode of “Disney’s Magic Bake-Off.” The show, which started airing just last month on the Disney Channel, pits three teams of two children against each other in a competition to create the best Disney-themed cake within a given time limit.
“One of my dreams came true, which is bake on a real kitchen set,” Emerson said in response to questions emailed to her mother. “I mean, c’mon — how many kids get to bake on TV, and for Disney?”
Emerson and Connor met after the latter moved from New Jersey about two years ago, according to their mothers, Janet Chong and Esther Kim. Chong explained that a mutual friend introduced their families to each other and the kids quickly became friends.
Emerson has been baking since she was 5 years old, the parents explained in an email, and often was found with her mother and aunts in the kitchen. During the pandemic, she started reading cookbooks and watching online videos to hone her skills. Around the same time, Connor expressed an interest in baking, which served as an outlet for his artistic leanings.
Later, a friend of the families told them about an open casting call for the baking show. They spent a few months attending meetings and Zoom interviews — culminating with the announcement that the production had selected Connor and Emerson as contestants.
“We were beyond excited and nervous for what was to come,” Janet Chong said in an email. “Each step of the interview process was nerve-wracking because we knew how much they wanted to be selected. It was a HUGE sigh of relief” when they were chosen.
Both members of the young duo, dubbed Team Meringue-Alorians on the show, said they were nervous about the competition, but expressed excitement about the opportunity. Esther Kim said the kids were “ecstatic” when the mothers told them about their selection, leaping into the air with glee.
The parents couldn’t share the results of the competition, which was recorded this summer, until it had aired — after the Leader’s press deadline.
Regardless of the results, Kim applauded the children’s performance.
“The kids worked so hard and put in so much effort in practicing, learning new techniques and working with different gadgets,” she said in response to emailed questions. “We’re so proud of them and couldn’t be happier for them to represent Burbank and our community.”
For the 5th-graders, baking and appearing on “Disney’s Magic Bake-Off” presented a variety of opportunities, ranging from expressing themselves creatively to being able to meet the hosts of the show.
“What I liked most about baking was it brought out my creative side,” Connor said in response to questions emailed to his mother, “and most of all it was so much fun to spend time with my friend Emerson.
“And,” he added, “having an excuse to eat all the cakes was an added bonus.”