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2018 Winners

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Create Cooking Challenge 2018 Winners Announced

Public television leading chefs select America’s newest cooking sensations to appear on

BOSTON, May 30, 2018 —American Public Television (APT), the original home to public television’s culinary experts and sponsor of the Create Cooking Challenge 2018, announced today that two new video stars have joined its ranks. Selected from a nationwide pool of entries by judges who are among public television’s best known chefs, Kiya Schnorr from New York City, claims the Grand Prize, receiving $4,000 and production equipment valued at approximately $1,000 to finance and produce a web series of 10 two-minute videos to appear on Second Prize Winner, Kristina Vanni, also from New York City, was awarded $1,000 and production equipment valued at approximately $1,000 to finance and produce a web series of three, two-minute videos for Distributed and produced by APT, WNET New York and WGBH Boston, Create® is a national channel carried by 238 local public television stations and features lifestyle content: cooking, travel, home improvement, gardening and arts & crafts.

Judging the Create Cooking Challenge, which ran February 6 - March 6, 2018, were star chefs Rick Bayless, (Mexico – One Plate at a Time), Joanne Weir (Joanne Weir’s Plates and Places), Kevin Belton (New Orleans Cooking With Kevin Belton), Ellie Krieger (Ellie’s Real Good Food), Grand Prize winner of the Create Cooking Challenge 2017, Buki Elegbede (Baked by Buki, web series at, and APT president and CEO Cynthia Fenneman. Entrants submitted an original video of two minutes or less featuring their best culinary project, recipe or tip. Judging criteria included culinary knowledge, presentation skills, telegenic appeal, and unique ideas.

Although trained as a dancer, Grand Prize Winner Kiya Schnorr has always been interested in food. Schnorr started in the kitchen at a young age, cooking Italian food with her mother. Growing up in South Florida, she became curious about Mexican and Cuban influences in local cuisine, soon discovering the rich spices which complement Caribbean recipes. That opened a world of new flavors to her palate. After first using recipes exactly as written, Schnorr then created her own versions, adding unique spices to add the “heat” she loved. By the time she was majoring in Dance at Florida State University (FSU), Schnorr was experimenting with the newfound interest in cooking for herself and friends.

Schnorr began ballet at four years old, joining a South Florida dance company at 16. At FSU, she broadened her horizons, learning different dance techniques as well as video production – a skill which would help her produce her first entry in the Create Cooking Challenge in 2017. Her interest in dance took her to New York where Schnorr and her best friend formed a dance company, performing around the City for about three years. Long days were made easier when she could get home and cook. Ultimately, Schnorr realized that dancing was interfering with other passions – cooking, her blog and photography. Thus, she joined a local studio as a barre instructor, giving her the freedom to embrace other interests.

Schnorr met her husband, Chris, while a college student in Florida. They were married in New York, where they share a love of hot spices. They met at a Florida sushi restaurant where Chris worked, saying “just get the red curry,” a message that still rings true for them today. They love traditional Thai and Vietnamese food, though Kiya professes that her favorite two foods are chicken and “any kind of fries.” Schnorr’s love of both inspired her winning entry: Kiya’s 2-Minute Deep Frying Guide.

Though they’ve enjoyed being New Yorkers, Kiya and Chris are following their dream of having a garden, and are moving to Seattle this summer. Contemplating her 10-episode series for, Schnorr hopes to focus on various cooking techniques. She finds teaching exciting as it presses her to continue to do research and to “find what’s important” in preparing a dish. Inspired by her parents, who enjoy taking cooking classes, Schnorr is always seeking new ways to prepare food and enjoys sharing what she has learned.

Judge Ellie Krieger praised Schnorr’s video: “I want to hang out with her in her kitchen! She had excellent tips presented in a clear and compelling way.” Rick Bayless added: “Fun video that proves you don’t need a big kitchen… good, practical tips!” Last year’s winner, Buki Elegbede, liked Schnorr’s presentation, too: “Great job with the graphics…explaining the process and techniques in a clear, concise way. Kiya is your big sis who you want to teach you how to cook!”

Kristina Vanni, whose entry focused on information about what she calls “Scandinavian Superfoods,” introduced a different perspective in her video. Growing up with a mother who loved cooking, recipe testing and cooking contests, Vanni is inspired by what piques the interest of others. “Cooking has always been associated with fun,” said Vanni, explaining that family vacations were either part of a prize won, or to attend a culinary competition. Her first “win” was at the age of 10 in the culinary division at the Lake County Fair in her hometown of Libertyville, Illinois. “I was bitten by the bug,” she explained. Not only did she get excited by the competition, Vanni realized that she was energized by the creative process in building wonderful recipes. “From creating an innovative burger to a decadent dessert, the research, discovery and final result fuels a real passion in me,” she said.

Vanni, who loves to travel and learn about and enjoy cuisines from across America and Europe, is committed to take her work as a food writer, food photographer, food stylist, and recipe developer in an additional direction. She is focused upon a cookbook featuring the recipes of her ancestors – a history of food which stems from six generations of her family working a dairy farm in western Finland. This interest played a key role in her Create Cooking Challenge 2018 prize-winning entry, Scandinavian Superfoods: Lingonberries

Vanni’s great grandmother came to America with her sister, leaving behind nine siblings who continued to run the farm. With “more cousins in Finland than the U.S.,” Vanni visits the farm often, researching the recipes and native ingredients which created cuisine she says is simply not known or served here in America. “Nobody knows about this food, but it has incredible nutrition and unique flavors,” said Vanni. Her work on the cookbook continues as she tests recipes, works on ways to ensure that cooks can get the ingredients they need, and translates measurements to be sure they are “just right.”

Judge Joanne Weir was intrigued by Vanni’s video entry: “She presents well…is alluring…and knows what she is talking about….and showed a unique dish with tips and nutritional information. I loved her tape!” Judge Kevin Belton agreed: “Always a pleasure to learn about other cuisines.” Lessons taken from her Nordic heritage are sure to be a key part of Vanni’s web series coming to later this year.

Now in its third year, the Create Cooking Challenge attracted video submissions from across the country, with viewers participating from more than 80 local public television stations. In addition to the two top prizes, 16 Honorable Mentions were awarded to entrants from local Create stations and public television markets in New York, California, Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C. Full information and links to all winners and entrants’ videos are found at


About Create: Create is the premier lifestyle channel featuring public television’s most popular how-to series: cooking, travel, home improvement, gardening, and arts and crafts. Create is produced and distributed by American Public Television (APT), WNET New York, and WGBH Boston, in association with National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA) and PBS. Create TV is carried by 238 local public television stations nationwide, reaching 85% of USTVHH and is seen in 21 of the top 25 U.S. television markets. Create’s companion website features extensive video, projects, tips, recipes, the Create TV schedule, featured program titles, and hosts.

For information contact:
Jamie Haines,
617.338.4455 ext 129 m. 617.962.5604

Photo of Grand Prize Winner Kiya Schnorr
Photo of Second Prize Winner Kristina Vanni
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