Vitalia Vargo, a seasoned baker for more than four years, used her vast experience to take third place at the Lutheran Brotherhood Garden State Agency cooking contest in New Jersey with her recipe for Junior Mint Chip Cookies.
Vitalia is 5 years old.
It might have been disheartening for the adults in the contest who were bested by this young member of Atonement Lutheran Church, Asbury Park, N.J., where her father, James, is pastor. But they should take comfort that Vitalia appears to be a food prodigy who was creating in the kitchen before she could walk.
Unlike parents who push their children into activities, Vitalia showed an early interest in baking by herself.
"When Vitalia was 1 or so, she loved to sit on the kitchen counter and smell spices," said her mom, Jean, also an ELCA pastor. "And then she loved to try putting things in the recipes that I would make."
Soon she was making her own creations-with mixed results. "You know how kids love to mix things together? She would take things and basically waste food," her mom said. "So I told her whatever she made had to be edible. And she started putting things together that tasted good."
When she started getting older, Vitalia made recipes at the rate of two a week. From cookies to cakes to salads and main dishes, the number of treats the young chef concocted grew so large that her grandmother suggested she make a book out of them.
Now she can add author to her resume as My Four Year Old Cookbook was self-published by the family.
The recipes include short comments from Vitalia and names such as Power Sepht Zone Pancakes, which have mozzarella cheese, and Something Special (it's a cookie with every sweet thing you can imagine).
And like all fussy chefs, Vitalia insists that the family follow her recipes to the letter.
Now that she's getting on in years and must attend school full time, Vitalia has reduced her baking mostly to weekends.
But she has not ruled out a future in culinary school.
Mrs. Fields move over. There's a new chef in town.
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers