Kids cook up some top treats

TUSTIN — At 11 years old, Marissa Angelina Wendt has her own baking show.

Viewers can learn how to make treats like unicorn poop cookies or vanilla bean cupcakes at the Irvine resident's SugarNomsTV channel on YouTube.

"I have a sweet tooth, and I'm just really passionate about baking," Marissa said.

This week, a video she posted to SugarNoms won her the title of Best Kid Chef from Orange County restaurateur Zov Karamardian who has eateries stretching from Newport Beach to Tustin and Irvine.

Thirty kid chefs from around the county submitted videos of cooking demonstrations to Karamardian's competition.

Thursday, she invited six finalists to Zov's Bistro in Tustin to test their skills in the kitchen and show their taped cooking demos to a panel of judges.

Malkiah Alberts, 10, of Huntington Beach, made Wheat Thin tacos loaded with meat and cheese in her video.

She and her mother watched the demo while they munched on a plate of breakfast Malkiah and her fellow kid chefs had just finished making in the Zov's Bistro kitchen.

Malkiah said she started cooking so she could help out her mom.

"I just wanted another cook in the house," Marlie Alberts joked.

Karamardian started the competition last year with the goal of teaching kids that food doesn't come from plastic wrap or a fast food container, she said.

To do that, she decided to teach kids the process, inviting them to her kitchen where she would teach them basic culinary techniques.

"We are happy to see that they are actually cooking," she said. "I just love kids."

A pair of kid chefs finalists from Irvine cook every week, according to their parents.

Sisters Natasha, 11, and Juliette Hill, 10, are carrying on a tradition of family dinners their grandmother experienced growing up in France.

They'll often cook together as a family, and Natasha has started whipping up a weekly breakfast.

"I love making crepes because it's French," Natasha said about the dish she learned from her grandmother Claudine Hastings.

Her entry for the competition was also a recipe from her grandmother: chicken Milanese and ratatouille.

A panel of food journalists from Orange County publications ultimately picked Marissa's demonstration of strawberry lemonade meringue pie.

She walked away with the title and a $1,000 savings bond.

But before the competitors left, each got a congratulatory gift certificate to Karamardian's restaurants, and the chef had one last message for them.

"Keep cooking. Keep cooking healthy meals," she said.

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