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kristina vanni

One of my earliest memories is sitting on top of the kitchen counter watching my Mom prepare family dinners, bake goodies for school events or invent new and exciting recipes to be entered in cooking contests. Our version of an indoor sandbox was a mixing bowl filled with a bag of flour. For hours I would be content to sift my hands through the soft white flour, enchanted by her cooking. Somehow during those early formative years I began to absorb some of my Mom's culinary magic. Beginning at age 8 I learned to prepare dishes on my own and even started entering some of our famous family recipes in the culinary division of the local county fair. By age 11, the judges simply asked that I stop entering our award winning apple pie so others would have a chance at the grand champion trophy. Throughout my childhood, every family vacation was the result of my Mom winning a cooking contest and competing across the country. From Orlando, Florida to Sun Valley, Idaho and everything in between, we accompanied her to contests across the nation. Many of our family's fondest memories involve these luxurious vacations and exciting contests. Finally at age 12, I was old enough to enter the #1 cooking contest in the national The Pillsbury Bake-Off. On my first try, I became the youngest finalist at the 35th contest and went on to win $2,000 for my Raspberry Filled Apricot Cake. Ironically, at this very contest my competition was my own Grandmother who went on to win a $10,000 prize herself! The two of us prepared our recipes on-air with Bake-Off host Willard Scott. Cooking on camera and sharing recipes beyond my home kitchen was a moment that would change my life forever. From that moment, I was officially a third generation "contester"� and couldn't wait to carry on my family tradition in cooking contests. Later, I was asked to host a cooking segment for ABC's Mike and Maty Show and from then on I was hooked. At age 20, I was again lucky enough to become a finalist in the 39th Pillsbury Bake-Off with my recipe for Smoky Southwestern Shepard's Pie, a new twist on the classic recipe. The dish was featured on the cover of that year's cookbook and an article on my culinary biography appeared inside the book. I served as a spokesperson for the 39th contest and traveled to New York City to promote the contest on The Morning Show on CBS. My story and recipe were also a featured segment on the Pillsbury Bake-Off Special on CBS that year. After graduating from Northwestern University with a degree in Theatre, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career not only as an actor but also with the dream of someday hosting a cooking show. I have always felt that cooking and acting were artistic endeavors and creative outlets that would one day merge into a unique and exciting career. Check out to learn more!

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Smoky Southwestern Shepard's Pie
Raspberry Filled Apricot Cake