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It’s back to the kitchen for area’s newest celebrity

South Boston News
12-year-old Bryn Montgomery with dad Vin in an appearance before the South Hill Rotary Club. / March 28, 2018
As she was enjoying the experience of a lifetime as a contestant on Food Network’s Kids Baking Championship, 12-year-old Bryn Montgomery of South Hill voiced a wish on the air: If she won the championship, she wanted to buy a labradoodle puppy as her reward.

Well, Bryn advanced to the final four but fell short of the title, yet she got her puppy anyway — courtesy of one of the countless fans that the winsome sixth grader won along the way.

A North Carolina dog breeding operation, Just Doodling Around, provided a 10-week-old labradoodle for Bryn at the end of her run, after the owners were captivated like so many others by her poise, creativity and sense of fun that she displayed throughout the airing of the reality TV series.

The chance to live out a dream was a surprise for the Brunswick Academy student, the daughter of Vin and Ann Montgomery. Baking is a longtime hobby for Bryn — she has sold baked goods for family and friends for more than four years — and she’s an avid watcher of the Kids Baking Championship, which just wrapped up its fourth season on The Food Network.

After hearing her express an interest in going on the show herself, Ann Montgomery secretly applied for her daughter to become a contestant — keeping everything quiet just in case nothing came of the effort and thus no one would be disappointed. Out of the blue, on May 20, 2017, Ann got an email from the producers asking for Bryn to do an interview via Skype. After several more interviews, Bryn was selected in June for a final round to determine the 2018 field of contestants. In July, Bryn and her mom were off to New Orleans, leaving dad Vin and 16-year-old sister Sutton at home.

There were 15 kids competing for 12 spots on the show and after three days of “boot camp” basics three of the young hopefuls were sent home. The rest, including Bryn, were cast for Season Four.

The filming began with “hero” shots — posed photos used at the beginning of each episode — and later the young contestants were given a tour of the kitchen and equipment they would need to whip up each episode’s baking confections. It took some getting used to, having an appointed cameraperson following the kids around on the set at all times. “The camera was always right in your face,” said Bryn.

She was the only contestant who was assigned a female cameraperson; Bryn said she liked that as it made her feel more comfortable and relaxed. There was no audience on the set, and parents had to watch in another room. The kids baked and did interviews with the filming of each episode, and the judging, eliminations and further interviews took place on the next day.

The contestants competed in several challenges, such as making sweet dessert pizzas and using freeze-dried, astronaut-approved ingredients to bake “intergalactic desserts.” They were judged on their baking skills and originality and had to think quickly each time a new challenge was introduced into the baking process. One of Bryn’s favorite challenges was making a unicorn cake — she received high remarks for her creation, “Bell,” after being directed to make a cake that expressed the emotion of being shy.

She won the “Doughnuts Go Nuts” round with the sort of confection only a kid could dream up: Maple Bacon Doughnut with potato chips. Along the way she created many standout recipes, such as her sun-and-space confection in Round 8, “Out of This World” (the one with freeze-dried ingredients) and she impressed with her dessert pizza, sugar cookies and other specialties.

Alas, in Round 9, “Sand Castle Sweets,” Bryn put together a castle cake presentation that — despite the ice cream cone turrets and dozen starfish-shaped sugar cookies — wasn’t quite enough to advance her to the tenth and final round of the show.

The judges, Valerie Bertinelli and Duff Goldman, were on set to encourage and watch as the kids baked up their daily challenges and to taste all the delicious entries. Bryn described Bertinelli as “motherly” on the set, offering kind words whenever kids became discouraged. Duff brought a light touch, keeping the kids’ spirits up with humor. Bryn said she and the other contestants had limited interaction with the celebrity judges, but they were pleasant to be around.

After Bryn was eliminated, even she and her family did not know who would win the competition — they had to wait until the March 5 finale just like everyone else, many months after the filming was completed. (Bryn and her mother spent three and a half weeks in New Orleans this summer competing on the show.) Lindsey Lam, a 13-year-old from New Jersey, was crowned the champ on the final night and Bryn watched along with the rest of the country as the challenge came to an end.

All dozen contestants developed a shared bond, and they continue to communicate through group texts every so often about their experience. Bryn and Abby Martin, a contestant from Wisconsin who was crowned one of the show’s two runners-up, will be spending time together during spring break when Abby and her family pay a visit to South Hill.

When they were not on set, she and her mom made friends with the other families and enjoyed the sights of the city. “We rode the trolley, saw some of the sights around the city and ate lots of good food. Especially the seafood,” Bryn stated. Bryn was not a big fan of New Orleans, but she loved the experience of competing on TV — something she knows is likely to happen just once in her lifetime.

Upon their return to South Hill, the Montgomerys faced a different challenge: keeping the entire business a secret until promos for the show started airing in December. Asked how they managed to do that, Bryn answered with a laugh, “We signed our life away.” Ann added, “We wanted to tell but we didn’t because of contractual obligations to Food Network and the show.” But they were happy and thrilled once the news got out and people in the community rallied around Bryn and her cause each Monday night on the show. But they still had to keep secret the details of being on the show, and whether Bryn had come away the winner.

What’s next for the young kitchen artist? Well, Bryn is still baking. She is fielding various requests to ship her confections all over the country, but her mother has set some ground rules for her 12-year-old mini-celebrity. No baking on school nights and only one or two orders (depending on size) on the weekends for right now. “She has to be a child sometime and enjoy other things in her life,” said Ann.

She has created her own baking space at home, with a new oven and kitchen working area. She enjoys baking as a hobby and wants to keep doing it for awhile, but she’s not sure how or if it will figure into her long-term future.

With the weather warming up, Bryn is turning her attention to another passion: she’s a junior golf champ and will be teeing off very soon in Piedmont VSGA tournaments and the Junior VSGA.

Celebrity has brought her many fans — including younger children who’ve asked for her autograph and a photo together — and Bryn has been invited to speak about her experiences at several events and meetings. Meantime, she has a wedding cake request and more cupcake orders to fulfill, and an invitation to a birthday party where she can simply be a guest and have fun. Amid the blur of activity and fun, she also is enjoying the experience of training her new puppy. You can follow her at B’s Sweets on Facebook or @bcmsweets on Instagram.


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