BakeCamps Crown Winners, While Supporting Dog Rescue

Amateur and pro cookie bakers competed at BakeCamp bake-off at the Woman’s Club.
Photo: Chaz Plager

The Palisades shook with sugar overload as 46 cookie titans battled for dominance in BakeCamp’s cookie bake-off on October 14.

Held at the Women’s Club on Haverford, BakeCamp was billed as a “one-of-a-kind event that brings together LA’s best professional and amateur bakers and local foodies.”

In the Palisades, entrants of varying skill, were labeled as “Pro” or “Amateur.”

Amateurs competed to win a paid deal with Los Angeles chain Cravory Bakery, while Pros competed to win a handmade cookie jar and bragging rights. There was no second or third prize: the winner takes all.

Organizers provided this journalist with a Cookie Bliss ticket, which allowed me to sample 25 cookies.

All visitors (including me) also received the ability to vote using two tokens, one for my favorite Pro cookie and one for my favorite Amateur.

While sampling cookies, I noted the following standouts:

Attendees were able to try at least 25 homemade cookies.
Photo: Chaz Plager

Leslie Macchiarella baked “Snickerdoodles, 1888,” using a recipe passed down in her family for generations. The cookie was very light and fluffy. Almost like cake? Very far from what one expects a cookie to be.

Natasha Bassett, actress and female lead on blockbuster hit “Elvis,” created her cookies originally as a gift to actor Tom Hanks, who devoured the batch in seven minutes. Thus, she named the cookies “Seven Minutes in Heaven.”

The name is quite fitting. Their buttery finish is immaculately paired with a light chocolate. I can’t even blame Tom for eating them all. She has an Instagram account where she posts her cookies at @tashiscookies.

Valentina Wein, a Palisades resident, entered the Pro category with her “Chai Chocolate Chunk” cookies. The recipe is posted on her site at Her cookies are sublime. It’s a real feat to make a cookie with cinnamon and ginger that remains both sweet and moist. She easily gained my vote.

The youngest entrant to the contest, clocking in at just eleven years old, was Margot Millstein, who entered with her “Birthday” cookies. Hailing from Brentwood, Margot began her baking career at the tender age of four years old. Although she was a crowd favorite, she herself has no idea whether or not she will be doing this for a future career.

Jorge and Arcelia Dios entered under the Pro category with their Peruvian family recipe, that they brought to this country 34 years ago.  Labeled under the brand Dios Bakes (@diosbakes on Instagram), the cookie has a refreshing dry finish and delicious fruit center. The Dios make an appearance at every Palisades farmers market, so those enticed by my descriptions ought to catch them in person or order online.

It was a delicious hour and a half spent, but ultimately, I had to choose the best ones. Who would I vote for? I ended up choosing Natasha Basset’s “Seven Minutes in Heaven” for the amateur category, and Valentina Wein’s “Chai Chocolate Chunk” for the professional category. We may be neighbors, but I assure you that her skill is the real deal, and I definitely didn’t want to avoid having to look her in the eyes and say someone else’s cookie was better.

Cookies of all flavors were available to try.
Photo: Chaz Plager

The event was a crowd pleaser. “I got this cookie shaped like a dog bone,” said fourth grade attendee Juliette. “I really like it. This place is awesome.”

I left the event with a bag full of cookies, a stomach also full of cookies, and a heart full of happiness.

My thanks go out to all the very talented bakers who took part in this competition, to its organizers who helped raise money for such a great cause, and to Paw Works for providing me with plenty of puppy pictures to fill my heart with.

BakeCamp was the second of three events, held not only to celebrate October as National cookie month, but to raise funds for rescue animals. The first event was held in Hollywood and the third event will be held in the San Fernando Valley on October 22 on

The proceeds from this event will go to Paw Works, a dog rescue organization situated in Thousand Oaks. Stationed just outside the Woman’s Club were eight pups that had been abandoned at an animal shelter’s night box and were rescued by Paw Works, Visitors were allowed to pet the animals and I was handed Price, a very well-behaved bundle of fur and joy. You could almost call him sugar sweet.

Rescue puppies, which had been abandoned, were at the event to remind people of the reason for the BakeCamp fundraiser. Money went to Paw Works.
Photo: Chaz Plager

“Our mission is for every bite of cookie to save a life,” said organizer Babette Pepaj. “We hope to put smiles on the faces of our organizers, attendees and entrants.”

The Pro baker winner was Dominque Thompson click here and the amateur winner was Nathasha Bassett click here

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