Scott D. Pierce: 11-year-old Utah baker is competing for $25,000 on the Food Network

Henry Muranaka is a contestant on the ‘Kids Baking Championship.’

(Rob Pryce | Food Network) Utahn Henry Muranaka, 11, is a contestants on Season 12 of "Kids Baking Championship."

I am thoroughly impressed with Henry Muranaka, an 11-year-old Bountiful boy who’s a contestant on the Food Network’s “Kids Baking Championship.”

He’s one of 12 kids from around the country who made it on the show, which is no small accomplishment all by itself. He’s brave enough to compete, with cameras aimed at him while he creates cakes and cookies and pies — knowing that millions of viewers are going to see him.

And the kid can bake. I’m not sure my mother would’ve let me in the kitchen when I was 11, and Henry is whipping things up for his family, friends and now a national viewing audience.

And he does it for fun.

“I always helped my mom bake, whenever she would make something,” Henry said. “So during quarantine, I decided that I was going to take some baking classes.” He was drawn to it because “you can just decorate however you want to decorate it. So it’s, like, pretty creative.”

(Rob Pryce | Food Network) Henry Muranaka, 11, of Bountiful works on a cake as he competes in "Kids Baking Championship."

So he signed up for an online baking class at Salt Lake Culinary Education, and that’s how he ended up on “Kids Baking Championship.” Someone there “sent my mom an email, and it was, like, ‘Oh, wow, there’s this baking championship he could try out for.’ And I’d never heard of it. So we watched a couple episodes. And I was, like, ‘Yeah!’”

Henry filled out an application, which was just the beginning of “a pretty long process. You have to make stuff and then send pictures and all that. I made, like, cakes and pies and stuff.”

And now he has a chance to turn his love of baking into $25,000 — the prize for the winner of “Kids Baking Championship.”

Oh, and this young Utahn turned his passion for baking into a school science project. Really!

Season 12 of the show, hosted by Valerie Bertinelli and Duff Goldman, begins Monday on the Food Network — 6 p.m. on Dish and DirecTV; 9 p.m. on Comcast. In the first of 10 episodes, create cakes with pictures on top. Upcoming challenges include “blondies that celebrate … hopscotch” and “cafeteria lunch dessert imposters,” according to the Food Network.

(Rob Pryce | Food Network) Bountiful 11-year-old Henry Muranaka (front row, second from left) is one of a dozen contestants on the new season of "Kids Baking Championship."

A few things to know about Henry

He’s a seventh grader at Bountiful Junior High • Henry was born in California, but moved to Utah when he was about 18 months old.

He really likes to bake cream puffs • “I started to make cream puffs quite a while ago” when he took a class and decided, “They’re pretty hard to make, which is kind of fun. But it’s also really fun because they always taste good, and you can make them different because you can fill them with, like, whipped cream or something. So you can, like, make any flavor you want.”

He investigated the science of cream puffs • “I did my science fair project last year on cream puffs and what type of flour’s the best to make them pop up and have the most space inside,” Henry said. He baked the same cream puffs using three types of flour — high-gluten flour, bread flour and all-purpose flour. The high-gluten flour created the most space inside the cream puff, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be using it to bake them in the future “because there was too much space inside.” But the project impressed the judges. “I made it to the state science fair,” Henry said.

Competing on a Food Network show was “pretty surreal” • “You see it in the videos,” Henry said, “but when you first see it in person, it’s way different. … You just understand what it looks like more. And there’s so much stuff for baking — baking-related stuff.” And it was a surprise to see how many people it takes to make a TV show. “Yeah, there’s, like, so many people filming you.”

He felt the pressure • Not surprisingly, it’s harder to bake when cameras are aimed in your direction and you know you’re going to be part of a national TV show. Although you can make a mistake baking at home and nobody knows, when you’re on camera, “if you, like, mess up one thing, it might just be on the show. And it’s kind of stressful because then you just don’t look as good or whatever.” Henry was definitely nervous, “because there’s so many cameras, like, watching you and you’re competing for a large sum of money. So, yeah.”

He kept an eye on the clock • There are strict time limits on the show. “At home, you have enough time. But there ... it’s pretty stressful.”

He bonded with his fellow contestants • Henry and the other 11 contestants got to know each other “really well … because we were all kind of stressed, in a way. You just talk to them, and then you get to become good friends, because they like the same things as you.” And, he said, the contestants were pretty supportive of one another. “Yeah, they wouldn’t be, like, ‘Oh, this guy’s not doing good. Hurray!’. They were kind of more nice.”

He loved being on the show • Henry said that, given the chance, he would “100%” do it over again. “It was a really good experience.”

He had to keep quiet • Henry couldn’t talk to anyone, other than his parents, about being on the show. His friends know now, and the news didn’t altogether shock them. “They know I really enjoy baking, so I wouldn’t say they were, like, super surprised. But, yeah, they were pretty impressed, I guess.” He does bake for them, on occasion. “Yeah, sometimes, my friends will be, like, ‘Can you make cupcakes?’ and I’ll just be, like, ‘OK.’”

He doesn’t spend all his time in the kitchen • He plays the piano, and “I really like to play video games,” he said. “I play tennis quite a bit, and I like mountain biking.”

He might want to be a baker when he grows up • “Probably, yeah,” Henry said. “I mean, I would like to be a baker, but I don’t know. It’s quite a lot of work.”

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