It was the birthday party of her dreams. Ava, a 7-year-old girl who is fighting a rare form of leukemia, loves watching cooking competitions on TV with her mom. So she was beyond excited when members of her Seattle-area community rallied to create a memorable event: a cooking challenge in a professional test kitchen, complete with celebrity chefs "judging" the entries!

Ava in chef's hat_resized

Ava was at Children's Hospital in Seattle awaiting a critical, potentially lifesaving chemotherapy trial. A family friend reached out to Esmee Williams, Allrecipes Vice President of Consumer and Brand Strategy, asking about the possibility of staging a cooking challenge party.

With only a few days to spare, some of the stars of Seattle's food community rose to the challenge of creating a pizza- and cupcake-making contest for Ava and her friends. Ethan Stowell Restaurants generously donated dough, sauce, and toppings, so the cooking teams could assemble a pizza, one of Ava's favorite foods. Cupcake Royale donated plain cupcakes to decorate, as well as its signature icing in pastry bags.

Extreme cupcake_resized
The cupcake challenge gave Ava and friends a chance to go wild with toppings | Photo by allrecipes

On August 14, Ava and a small group of family and friends arrived to discover a decorated Allrecipes test kitchen. Allrecipes nutritionist Alli Shircliff was the emcee and host, while Jack Mitz, Allrecipes head of video, captured images and video of the festivities.

Thierry Rautureau of Seattle's Loulay Kitchen and Bar and Luc restaurants, and chef Thom Koshwanez from Ethan Stowell Restaurants were the esteemed judges. Neither judge knew who'd created which pizza or cupcake they were tasting, yet Ava was crowned champion, much to her delight.

Tierry, Ava, and Thom_resized
Tierry, Ava, and Thom_resized

All of us involved in planning the event and the spectators who gathered to cheer Ava on were so touched and taken by this wonderful little girl and her family. After Ava's treatment, the family returned home to Chicago, and Ava's mother Esther wrote a heartwarming thank you to all involved: "The event was unforgettable and something we will look back on for many, many years to come. I still can't quite wrap my mind around how amazing everything was and how perfectly you matched Ava's wishes."