RICHMOND, Va. -- Keya Wingfield is proving hidden talents appear where you least expect them.
The Henrico woman never aspired to work with flour or frosting.
She has no formal training and never gave baking a second thought growing up in Bombay, India.
“I am a self-taught baker for the most part,” she said. “I live for it. I love what I do.”
Yet Keya and her employee Robyn can’t make cookies and cake pops fast enough.
“We love to under-promise and over-deliver,” Keya said. “I am pretty convinced I was put on this earth to feed people.”
The owner of Keya and Co. is satisfying Richmond’s sweet tooth seven days a week.
“I’ve been very busy. Very busy,” Keya said. “We were the first one to make cake pops in Richmond 11 years ago.”
Delivery and pickup orders pour in from businesses to birthdays.
Husband David Wingfield said there were fringe benefits of being married to a baker.
“I’ve gotten to taste everything she has done so I’ve seen the progression,” David said. “I can tell you that the chocolate chip cookies she makes are the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had. I’m not exaggerating.”
Keya’s creations are causing sugar highs beyond Central Virginia.
Last summer her phone rang.
Keya’s big break was calling.
Hollywood invited her to compete against 10 other cookie connoisseurs on Food Network’s “Spring Baking Championship.”
At stake were bragging rights and a $25,000 grand prize.
“It was pretty daunting,” Keya said. “Sky is the limit.”
Aside from the pile of dough, the exposure was priceless.
Professionally the 36-year-old baker was riding a wave of success.
Keya should be celebrating.
Instead, she and her husband are grieving.
On February 5, Keya gave birth to their son Daksh.
“Holding him the first time I knew there was something wrong with him,” Keya recalled. “You can never unlive that day.”
The staff at Henrico Doctors rushed the newborn to the NICU.
“It is really hard first of all to accept that this is happening,” David said.
Daksh was then transferred to VCU Medical Center.
He was put on life-support for 12 days. Four weeks later, doctors diagnosed Daksh with a rare respiratory illness.
“The disease he has is like looking for a needle in a hundred haystacks,” Keya said.
The infant would need a lung transplant. His condition did not improve.
On March 31, Keya, David, and their daughter Uma said goodbye to baby Daksh.
“The images of him looking up to me and me holding him will be with me forever,” David said. “There is a hole in my chest that is not filled yet.”
After a month and a half, Daksh’s little body gives out.
“You know this is wrong. You shouldn’t have to bury kids,” Keya said.
Two weeks after his passing the Wingfields are still numb.
Despite their loss, the parents consider the short time with Daksh a blessing.
“We appreciate those 55 days,” David said.
Keya Wingfield is slowly returning to the kitchen. The memory of her son never far.
“He is not only a part of my heart. He is a part of my body," she said.
For this baker whose treats provide so much joy, life can be bittersweet.
“He will be remembered through my work,” Keya said. “He will become part of my work. I will be honoring him in some way.”
Keya and David are extremely grateful for all of the love and attention their family received from the staff at VCU Medical Center and Henrico Doctors.
Keya is continuing her run on the “Spring Baking Championship.” The show airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on Food Network.
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