Nahono “Naho” Yanagi, of Morgan Hill, prepares a dessert on a recent episode of "Kids Baking Championship" on Food Network. Photo courtesy of Food Network.

Nahono “Naho” Yanagi didn’t have much experience in the culinary arts merely a couple years ago, but the Morgan Hill 13-year-old is thriving as one of the few remaining contestants on a popular baking competition broadcast nationwide on the Food Network. 

Nahono has been a competitive figure skater since she was a toddler. But after the Covid-19 public health crisis shut down most indoor facilities in 2020, she was unable to practice and found herself looking for a new outlet. 

“When I was watching TV one day, I saw ‘Kids Baking Championship’ and I got really interested in it,” Nahono said in a recent interview with this newspaper. “I watched all (of a previous season’s) episodes, and I thought, ‘I want to be on this show,’ and I just applied.”

Nahono made it through the show’s application and selection process to become one of 12 young bakers—who are also entrepreneurs and burgeoning business owners—to compete on national television for the 11th season of Kids Baking Championship, which debuted Dec. 26 on the Food Network. New episodes are broadcast every Monday night.  

Kids Baking Championship pits the contestants, ages 10-13, against each other and the judges—culinary entertainment stars Duff Goldman and Valerie Bertinelli—to test not only the young bakers’ skills in the kitchen, but also their business savvy. Each episode presents a unique dessert challenge, giving contestants a limited time to complete their creation with an innovative business twist. 

Competitors are eliminated one at a time throughout the 10-week competition, culminating in a two-episode finale Feb. 20 in which the final four bakers vie for the grand prize—the title of Kids Baking Champion and $25,000. 

Nahono—also the owner and operator of Miley Baking—survived episode 6 on Jan. 30 by creating a “dessert imposter” crab cake and wedge salad out of vanilla confetti cake and a brownie covered with wafer paper that she airbrushed green. She sprinkled the “salad” with “some marshmallow tomato cinnamon sugar bacon,” she explained to Goldman, and used buttercream for the blue cheese dressing. 

The theme of the episode was “Power Lunch Imposters.” 

“Sometimes in business you need to go to a nice restaurant and seal a deal over a meal,” Goldman explained at the beginning of the episode. “Since all of you are business owners, you’re going to have to do this—you’re going to have to go to a power lunch.”

He added that over the next two hours of competition, their task was to “create a real dessert, but you also have to create the illusion.”

In a previous episode, titled “Festival Fare,” the kids were challenged to create a unique “dessert in a jar.” Nahono was assigned a banana cake in a jar. “At the end, we all got to taste each other’s desserts, which was really fun, and all the other bakers voted for me for best dessert,” securing her spot for the next round, Nahono explained. 

The show’s two celebrity hosts—in between food jokes and playful banter—also dispense with business advice for the young entrepreneurs on Kids Baking Championship. Nahono said one of those lessons included the use of colors to make their products more enticing. 

Nahono told this newspaper that before she first saw Kids Baking Championship on TV more than two years ago, the only time she had ever baked was when she made a cake for her older sister. After the show piqued her interest, last year Nahono started Miley Baking, which she operates and promotes on Instagram and Youtube—with the help of her sister. 

In a recent post on Instagram, Nahono displayed images of “tons” of macarons, chocolate caramel cupcakes and banana cookies that she had made for an event. 

Now, Nahono enjoys baking and spends a lot of time in the kitchen at home. 

“I really love when people smell my desserts, and when they eat my desserts,” Nahono said. “And it’s a stress reliever for me, too. I bake almost every weekend and it’s really fun.” 

As far as what she likes to bake, Nahono said, “I use a lot of Japanese flavors in my desserts because my relatives are from Japan.”

IN IT TO WIN IT Nahono “Naho” Yanagi, of Morgan Hill, has made it more than halfway through the 10-week Kids Baking Championship show and competition on Food Network. Photo courtesy of Food Network.

That’s on top of her busy figure skating regimen, which has resumed as the pandemic’s threat has subsided. Nahono performed Jan. 29 in front of spectators at SAP Center in San Jose, in the “Skating Spectacular” show that closed out the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. 

“I wake up early in the morning and practice before I go to school,” said Nahono, who goes to a private school in San Jose. “My sister was doing figure skating, and I got inspired by her. I started at about 2 or 3 years old.”

Nahono and the other contestants on Kids Baking Championship filmed the entire Season 11 last summer in Knoxville, Tenn. She already knows how the competition ends, but she is sworn to secrecy. 

Nahono said it is “a little weird” seeing herself on television each week, but every episode brings back fond memories. 

“It was really fun, and I was able to meet Duff and Valerie and make 11 new friends. And it was very surreal,” Nahono said. 

Kids Baking Championship airs Mondays at 8pm on the Food Network. The Feb. 6 episode will group the contestants into two teams challenged to make the best cream puff cake. 

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


  1. I’m really interested in finding out what kind of dog Naho got after the Kids Baking Championship! I hope that we’ll be able to find out since the show has wrapped.

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