One to Watch: Taylor Inouye ’23

Sophomore Taylor Inouye’s passion for baking started at age 3, while helping her grandmother make her famous holiday cookies. Since that initial spark as a preschooler, Inouye has become one of Hawai‘i’s most promising junior pastry chefs, serving up delightful eclairs, French macarons and a host of other sweet treats.

After diving into baking seriously at age 10, Inouye entered the national spotlight in 2018, when she made it to the final round of the Food Network’s “Kids Baking Championship.” Since then, the bubbly teen’s passion has only flourished. She now devotes her free time to learning from YouTube, recipe books and other chefs. Her mouthwatering desserts color her Instagram feed, @tayloredcreations, with such creations as rainbow-frosted cupcakes, a three tiered cake topped with Oreo buttercream and scalloped-edged Valentine’s Day sugar cookies. She delights friends and family with her offerings, and even has paying customers, yet she still loves to bake with her grandma, Judith “Now, we teach each other, which is fun,” she says.

Inouye’s run on national television began in sixth grade, while attending Hongwanji Mission School (she came to Punahou last year, as a freshman). A fan of the “Kids Baking Championship,” she submitted an application to appear, and just before eighth grade, she found herself on the New Orleans set of the reality show’s gleaming kitchen as one of nine contestants for Season 5.

Anyone who has seen the popular show understands the contestants’ stress and excitement of trying to master challenges artfully and within time constraints. Inouye proved herself a strong competitor right out of the gate, impressing judges with her tie-dye designed eclairs and winning the first episode’s challenge. She finished the season as a runner-up for first place, and was the first ever contestant from Hawai‘i. “Representing my state was definitely very cool, and the amount of support that I got from people here was incredible,” she said.

Although nervous and somewhat unsure of herself in the beginning, Inouye said she gained a sense of confidence as the show progressed. “Baking has taught me to go for my dreams and not be scared of what might happen,” said Inouye, who plans to attend culinary school after high school and pursue a career as a pastry chef.

Along with her sheer love for baking, the young star has directed her kitchen talents to serve the community. While in lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, she volunteered for mask drives and food drives through Aloha Harvest, an organization that collects and redistributes food to Hawai‘i’s hungry.

Mark Noguchi ’93, Punahou’s food curriculum specialist who has spearheaded the Aloha Harvest effort during the crisis, said Inouye is an inspiration to other young women in the culinary industry, not just because of her abilities, but because of her character. “She’s a young passionate culinarian who will set the bar, and not just with food,” he said. “She’s got a sense of direction and focus that belies her age, and she has empathy and compassion.”

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