Who or what was your inspiration to start cooking?
My inspiration to start cooking was my parents. I have grown up watching my parents cook, and enjoy watching them get excited about trying a new dish. My dad enjoys making elaborate breakfast foods, such as crepes, spiced pancakes with fresh fruit toppings, and Belgian waffles. He also makes fresh bread, pizza dough, and even donuts from time to time. When he bakes, he likes to get my brother and I involved and so my interest started to grow very early. I also got a hint of the savory side of cooking from my mom’s southern cooking and she really likes to try new recipes, which inspired me to try and create my own. Since one parent focuses more on sweet things and the other on savory, my tastes are quite broad.
At what age did you start cooking? What was your initial experience like?
I started cooking at the age of three, I believe. My mom and I decided to make pancakes and she was showing me how to crack eggs. She made it look real easy but when I tried, it did not go so well and I made a huge mess – eggs everywhere. I was really upset because I had eggs on the counter and the floor but my mom just told me it was okay and that we could just start over. I understood then that cooking was a process and mistakes would happen, it is not perfect. We started over and I had such a good time that I wanted to get back in the kitchen as soon as I could. I learned through cooking that when you make a mistake, you cannot stress out about it because it is a challenge to turn the “mess-up” into something new that you would never have created in the first place.
Why did you want to be on MasterChef Junior?
I enjoy cooking and to get the opportunity to cook on TV and in front of some of my favorites chefs was something that was hard to turn down. I had watched previous seasons of the show so when my mom signed me up for the audition, I was very excited. I knew it would be a challenge but I was up for it and felt like if I got a chance, I would do my best.
What did you most enjoy about being on the show?
I most enjoyed meeting the judges and being able to interact with other kids who like to do the same things that I like to do. I also really enjoyed cooking and learning so many new skills.
What is it like cooking for Gordon Ramsay? What was the best advice he gave you?
It was nerve-wracking because I did not want to disappoint him. Also, I really wanted him to like my food so I was always nervous when he would have to taste my dish. Overall, though, the experience was amazing to work with him and I would love to do it again.
Were there any catastrophes in the kitchen?
Yes. I fell in the kitchen. This is bad enough on its own, but when it’s on national television, it ten times worse.
What’s is your signature dish?
This is a hard question because I have so many things that I love to make. However, my signature dish right now is an herb-pesto turkey breast roulade. I found a recipe for it but changed a few things so my family would really like it. I made this for my family for Thanksgiving and we have decided that will be the main dish going forward at Thanksgiving. My mom and dad said that dish is one of my best. It was so good and I served it with duchess potatoes, balsamic glazed brussel sprouts with bacon, and biscuits.
Where do the ideas for your dishes come from?
I do look at recipe books all the time. In fact, I have started collecting them. I also watch most of the food shows that are on TV. However, I must say that most of my ideas for my dishes come straight from my brain. I really love to create recipes from scratch. Cooking allows me to experiment and show my creativity in a different way than I normally do, like at school.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I haven’t really made my mind up yet; however, I know that I would like to do something where I can still be creative. I have often thought about becoming a cookbook author because I like to write and develop stories and as mentioned earlier, I write recipes. I would also like to be an entertainment lawyer or news anchor. My mom is an attorney and I love the entertainment field so this is right up my alley. No matter what path I take, I will always find time to cook something delicious.
Do you want to someday own your own restaurant and if so, what kind of food would you serve?
I wouldn’t mind owning a restaurant one day. If so, I would serve lots of seafood and fresh vegetables. I would want my food to be nutritious, but also extremely tasty. I don’t have a specific theme in mind, probably some southern, some spicy, some sweet – a combination of several different themes. That would keep the restaurant interesting.
What was the most difficult challenge in the MasterChef Junior kitchen?
The torch challenge was clearly difficult. The other challenge that I found difficult was the team challenge because it is difficult to work as a team when you have multiple people trying to lead. It takes some time to figure it out and work together. I have to say that regardless of the difficulty associated with the challenges, I enjoyed all of them and the experience so much.
What chef do you most want to cook with and why?
I most want to cook with Bobby Flay and Martha Stewart. I like Bobby Flay because he grills and seasons with a lot of heat and my mom loves that. He is so talented and I enjoy watching him on his shows. Martha Stewart is a legend so I know she can teach me a lot!
Besides cooking, what other things do you like to do?
I really enjoy dancing and cheerleading. I was on a dance team for two years and just finished my first year of cheering at my middle school. I also enjoy reading and gardening. My dad and I just created our first garden and I hope to be able to use fresh veggies and herbs from the garden over the summer. I enjoy hanging out with my brother, Justin, and my friends.
How did you feel about watching yourself on TV?
It was really fun to watch myself on TV with my family! I was surprised at how much I remembered AND how much I forgot! At times, I forgot things I said and didn’t realize the faces I made at times also, so it was really eye-opening. Overall, I was really proud of how I handled myself on TV given all of the pressure in the kitchen. I loved seeing the interaction between all of the kids and the judges too. When you’re in the middle of it, you don’t see just how much we all supported each other.
Would you ever star in your own cooking show?
Absolutely! I would love to be the next Gordon Ramsay, Martha Stewart or Bobby Flay! I think having my own cooking show would be cool because I would have an opportunity to be as creative as I want, while also showing my personality.