Upon completing his first mayoral term four years ago, Mayor Gary Yamauchi decided Alhambra residents needed to have more fun.
“I looked back and realized, well that was boring,” Yamauchi said. “I knew I wanted to make my next term as mayor a more eventful year.”
So when he became mayor this fall, cupcakes were high on his agenda. (Other items included bringing back the Summer Jubilee — which will not happen due in part to state budget cuts, and regular town halls of which he has had one and is planning one more for May 3.)
“Every city has a chili cook-off or a pie baking contest,” Yamauchi said. “I wanted to do something a little bit different, that would be easy for the kids to participate in.”
At the City Council Meeting on Monday night, three new top officials for police chief, fire chief, and finance director were ratified in moments. But the Cupcake Challenge was the focus of the meeting. To accommodate the contest, the unusually boisterous meeting was held at the lobby of City Hall, rather than its usual location at the council chamber.
City Manager Julio Fuentes introduced the future police chief, Mark Yokoyama and finance director Paul Espinoza. The fire chief, Bill Walker, was absent because of a previous engagement. According to Fuentes, Walker had mentioned that his mother had attended Alhambra High School as a teenager.
Yokoyama said that it was the reputation of Alhambra’s police department, as well as the city management’s, that attracted him to the position. He noted that he lived only a few miles away as a child. “I grew up in Echo Park, so I spent a lot of time hearing about Alhambra," Yokoyama said. "So it’s nice to come full circle.” Espinoza spoke on his experience, which includes more than 20 years of service, and said that he was “very happy to be here.”
But the appointments took short shrift to agenda item #1: The Cupcake Challenge. Alhambra High School students were invited to participate in the baking contest for their shot at a $250 prize. (The Ratkovich Company and Yamauichi personally funded the contest, according to the mayor.) More than 20 Alhambra High School students attempted to bake their way to the top, submitting anything from sour cream and vanilla to good ole’ fashioned chocolate cupcakes.
Chef Akira Hirose, from the Japanese-French fusion restaurant Maison Akira in Pasadena, led a team of judges who assessed the colorful cupcakes on four criteria: taste, texture, frosting and appearance.
Local restaurants, including Charlie’s Trio, Fosselman’s Ice Cream Company and Twohey’s Restaurant, donated prizes.
Contestants and attendees munched on cookies and snow cones before the six finalists were announced during Monday’s City Council meeting. Each participant received a professional Cordon Bleu chef hat and a Fosselman’s gift certificate.
Amber Norwood and Katrina Garcia were the first and second-runner up, and Sharon Hen won.
Yamauchi was very pleased at his efforts to make Alhambra more fun. “I’m already thinking about next year’s cupcake contest,” he said. “I’d like Alhambra High School to have a bake off against Mark Keppel High School and San Gabriel High School.”