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Payton Pelaez: A Sweet Success

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Payton Pelaez: A Sweet Success

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At 4 a.m., most teenagers can be found asleep in their beds. However, freshman Payton Pelaez can be found in the kitchen covered in head to toe by flour.

“My mom had to come down and physically drag me from the kitchen,” the baking phenom said. Pelaez’s passion for baking causes his eyes to light up when he talks about it. His knack for creating baked goods arose when he was around eight years old. Pelaez grandmother introduced him to baking, she taught him most of the skills he has today. Pelaez always enjoyed baking cakes and cookies with her because of how kind and helpful she was. From that point on, his love for baking grew and grew.

When Pelaez was nine, he didn’t spend his Halloween like most kids would. “Instead of collecting candy like everyone else, I went from house to house handing out business cards and sample cookies,” he explained.

The business cards were a birthday present from his aunt, who had recognized the level of talent the young boy was developing.

Pelaez established a steady business called Chez Pay, and word rapidly spread about his tasty talent. He would bake pastries for everything from kids’ birthday parties to school events. As he grew older, Chez Pay grew with him. Pelaez developed a strong reputation in Marin, and was soon hired by Juice Girl, the popular cafe in Mill Valley, to sell pastries in their stores.

 

Although Payton enjoyed baking for his peers and neighbors, as a kid there were still many instances in which he felt like an oddball.

“During recess, the boys would be playing sports and the girls were doing their thing, and I didn’t really know where I fit in,” he said. “It wasn’t like there was a group of boys talking about their favorite cake.”

Pelaez knew that he was different, but that didn’t stop him from being true to himself. “Smaller things were harder, you know like small talk and stuff, because you’re not going to meet many teenage boy bakers. But I knew that in the end, it would all be worth it,” he said.

In 2010, Pelaez happened to meet a casting agent for cooking shows, who asked him to put together an audition video of him describing his passion for baking.

“Some kids like to play sports, some kids like to play video games, some kids like to play instruments, but I like to bake,” Pelaez said in his video. The video was sent to the Food Network, and around two months later, Pelaez got a call asking him to fly down to Hollywood to participate on the baking show, The Kids Baking Championship. Pelaez was ecstatic to participate, however once the competition began, he felt stressed out.

“Honestly, I didn’t know what I was doing. The first round, we had to make three different pastries, I ended up making six. Three of them I had to throw in the trash—they didn’t work—I dropped cakes on the floor, things were dry, some had too much cinnamon, too much sugar,” he said.

Even with all of the setbacks, Pelaez managed to make it to the end of round two out of four rounds. “I am just happy that I got to participate,” he said.

Pelaez continued to grow his business by creating a website and taking on broader tasks following the competition. His name became known by a handful of people and organizations throughout the Bay Area, due to the fact that he was representing San Francisco in the competition. One person was a woman who was scouting a middle-school student to give a TEDx talk at Ross School, in Ross, California. Once Pelaez had agreed, the next question was, what he was going to talk about? There were many things that had transpired in his his life that made it difficult to choose the focus of his presentation. Pelaez, being wise beyond his years, asked himself, “What do all of these events have in common?” His answer—Being true to himself. Every moment, every decision, every new project he started in the past, was successful because he stayed true to himself. And look where that got him—giving a TEDx Talk at the age of ten.

“There were no cooking clubs at school. Sometimes, I felt lonely in my kitchen. I asked my mom, ‘Why do I like doing things that no one else is doing?’” Payton Pelaez said in his TEDx talk.

With further support from his community, Pelaez was able to maintain his business. He accepted larger and larger orders, ranging from 100 pastries for a small get-together, to baking 1,200 pastries by himself for Jewish Children and Family Services. This was the particular task in which he recalled staying up until 4:00 a.m.

“You know, I don’t usually have any help in the kitchen. But I am actually thankful for that because if I do ever become a baker, I’ll be super organized because I will be able to time myself and do things in advance.” Even from a young age, Pelaez has been able to manage all of his income and projects with little help from his parents.

The lesson that Pelaez learned at such a young age, and continues to live by, is that if you continue to be yourself, everything will be worth it in the end. “Now, I know that as I get older, people care less about your differences and more so honor them and think they’re kind of cool,” Pelaez said.

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