Olivia Cruz, familian Gudgohu, was born on Guam and lived here during her childhood.

“Both my parents, Ken and Peatra Cruz, are CHamoru,” the 22-year-old baker and culinary school student told The Guam Daily Post.

Cruz got the Post's attention when she entered a contest that was heavily circulated throughout social media asking people of all ages if they are “the greatest baker in the world.” According to the website GreatestBaker.com, “One baker will take home the title, a feature in Bake from Scratch Magazine and $10,000.”

As of Nov. 18, Cruz had advanced to the top 10 with voting continuing through Nov. 24 for the top five positions.

“The prize is $10,000, but all proceeds raised through voting for the competitors are given to relieve families affected by childhood cancer,” said Cruz.

Cruz shared on the contest website that she has three baking specialties: bread, laminated pastries (Danish pastry, croissant and palmier) and banana bread.

According to the website, “Amateur and professional confectionery creators from around the world will compete online to be featured in Bake from Scratch (magazine).”

In the kitchen and the classroom

Cruz lives in Greenville, South Carolina, where she attends culinary school and works in a savory kitchen called Topsoil.

“(This) may be ironic, since most of my experience is baking and confectionary,” she said. "At Topsoil I work in the kitchen as garde manger, which is primarily small plates, desserts and making my weekly batch of black garlic brioche."

The budding baker and soon-to-be culinary school graduate likes to think she is both “trained and an amateur.” Cruz told the Post baking is her greatest and oldest hobby.

“Most of what I’ve produced was for my own enjoyment and to share with family on holidays,” she said.

Cruz graduates from the Culinary Institute of the Carolinas next month.

“I started soon after high school intending to just receive a baking and pastry certificate, but then fell in love with the program and decided to dual enroll, adding on culinary-savory and hospitality – learning the business, management, cost control, hospitality law, etc.,” she said.

'A long line of bakers'

The contest hopeful didn’t start baking until she moved to the states, after she turned 10, but all her inspiration comes from her island roots.

“I have a long line of bakers in my family,” she said. "My mom made treats for my siblings and I every day, and especially the holidays. My Grandpa Hagat was a steward for an admiral in the Navy but known for his baked Alaska and banana cream pies. My Momma Doring, my dad’s sister, has made wedding cakes and fruit cakes for many years. Both my Grandma Hagat and Nåna Tita Ramirez Ada would spend all day cooking massive meals. In fact, some of my favorite childhood memories are being with my nåna in her outside kitchen. She’d pull up a chair for my sister and me as she’d drop batter for buñelos aga' into hot oil. We would always get the first ones to come out."

Cruz said she has been exposed to the beauty of baked goods her whole life and that it is easy to have inspiration for baking when she knows her family and friends are excited to receive them.

“I think it’s my biggest love language,” she said.

In good company

If Cruz is selected as the 2022 Greatest Baker, she will join the ranks of past Greatest Bakers featured on the contest website. The 2021 Greatest Baker was a young woman battling cancer named Malia Jusczyk. The 2020 Greatest Baker was Sandy Bradley, an at-home baker who began her love for the craft after being gifted an Easy-Bake Oven at 4 years old.

Here’s wishing good luck to young Olivia for the title of Greatest Baker!

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