Falmouth student is crowned U.S. bread champ

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FALMOUTH — Parents pass a lot of things down to their children. For Jessica Grearson and her daughter Ellie Sapat, the inheritance includes a knack for winning cooking competitions.

On March 10, Sapat was crowned U.S. youth champion at the National Festival of Breads. The biennial bake-off, hosted by the Kansas Wheat Commission, is the largest amateur bread-making contest in the country.

“As long as I’ve been allowed in the kitchen (I’ve been baking),” Sapat, 16, said this week.

Sapat was named youth champ for her “Wild Maine Healthy Blueberry Banana Nut Bread,” which she said has less sugar than similar breads and is rich in healthy ingredients like almond meal, pecans, chia seeds and Maine blueberries.

“Honestly, it tastes just as good as the regular banana bread, but it has what I think is a better texture,” Sapat said.

But it was more than the texture that led judges to select Sapat as best baker.

Jordan Hildebrand, program assistant for the Kansas Wheat Commission, said there were seven other youth entries in this year’s competition, but Sapat’s recipe was “by far the best.”

“(Sapat’s recipe) probably would have been able to compete at the adult level,” Hildebrand said.

Grearson won the first-ever Festival of Breads in 2009. The contest includes two entry pools, adult and youth. Adult finalists go to Kansas to participate in a bake-off competition; the youth champion is named by judges on the basis of recipes and instructions that are submitted and then tested.

Grearson said cooking has long been a hobby and “stress reliever” in her everyday life, and eventually became something fun to do with both her daughters, Ellie and Emma.

“I introduced them to the concept when they were little,” Grearson said.

After she started entering competitions, her daughters decided to follow suit. So far, they’ve competed in a total of about 20 cooking and baking events.

Sapat said she’s particularly proud of winning an air-bake cookie challenge that brought her to New York, and a taco recipe contest where she created a pair of taco “dinosaurs.”

In Kansas, Sapat was chosen unanimously by nearly 50 taste-testing judges, and won a prize of $400. Sapat said she will put that money toward an even greater extracurricular passion, the speech and debate team at Falmouth High School, where she is a junior. She will be traveling with the team to Texas in June, and said the bread from her bread will help pay for her ticket.

“Baking is a hobby, but speech is my activity,” Sapat said.

Meanwhile, Sapat and Grearson will continue to bake and dream up new recipes. They also are on the lookout for future contests.

“We’re working on a maple-syrup sticky bun recipe, that one’s still in the making,” Grearson said. “Maybe we’ll have it ready for the next Kansas tournament.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Sidebar Elements

Ellie Sepat, 16, was named the U.S. youth champion at the 2015 National Festival of Breads, the country’s largest amateur bread-baking competition. She displayed her award-winning blueberry banana nut bread Monday.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.