Who or what was your inspiration to start cooking?
My mom. She told me stories about how her mom taught her. We never really talked about cooking like chefs do. We talked about the traditions behind it and stuff like that. When I got older I liked to experiment. I called it “making mixes.”
At what age did you start cooking? What was your initial experience like?
I have cooked with my mom since I was old enough to stand on a chair at the counter. Even though I had an Easy Bake Oven, I knew that wasn’t really cooking. Around age 4 or 5, Mom made me picture recipes for spaghetti, french toast, and banana bread by taking pictures of the ingredients and baking tools. I couldn’t read, but I could follow those recipes by myself. After that she added words with the pictures to other recipes. It helped me cook AND read.
Why did you want to be on MasterChef Junior?
I love to watch Master Chef Junior and I am a big fan of Chef Ramsay. I have also dreamed of what it would be like to be on television. I honestly didn’t think I would make it with so many kids trying out, but I am glad they had faith in me and asked me to be on the show.
What did you most enjoy about being on the show?
I think the best part was all the friends I made. Everyone was like one, big family. It was a lot of work, but fun to spend all that time together. The challenges were fun, too. My personal favorite was the team challenge cooking for the first responders. Even though my team lost, the challenge was really exciting!
What is it like cooking for Gordon Ramsay? What was the best advice he gave you?
I still can’t believe I got to meet him! He tried my food and I got to watch him cook. It feels like a dream. He told me to stick with the spices I was comfortable using, but just when I thought it was enough, kick it up a bit. I guess my taste is not quite as mature as a professional chef so I need to try more flavors and don’t be afraid to add more kick!
Were there any catastrophes in the kitchen?
I did get burned one time, but I kind of felt like it was a badge of pride to have gotten a battle wound during the competition. The worst day was when I filmed two challenges and I wasn’t feeling great. Chef Ramsay gave me a great pep talk so that helped, too.
What’s is your signature dish?
When I started the competition, I would have said pasta with marinara sauce or Chinese beef and broccoli, but now I like to cook fish and other seafood a lot! Baked, seared, grilled… cooking fish is my new specialty. I had cooked fish before, but didn’t realize how good I was at it. I also have learned to experiment with a lot of side dishes. My sides used to be pretty basic, but I’ve learned to combine different things and spice them up!
Where do the ideas for your dishes come from?
I like to look at pictures of food a lot. I might look at a recipe, but I don’t usually follow recipes step by step. I try to create things that sound good. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s a “learning experience” and I try again. I love to find new things at the farmers market to experiment with.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Sometimes I want to be an actor, or a singer. I like to design clothing, too. I really want to entertain people and use my creativity. I know I am supposed to say I want to be a chef, but cooking is something I like to do they way I want to. I don’t really want to make it a JOB.
Do you want to someday own your own restaurant and if so, what kind of food would you serve?
I guess I don’t really want to own a restaurant. I like to cook for my friends and family. I might like to do creative baking like cake sculptures, but I don’t think I’d want to own my own.
What was the most difficult challenge in the MasterChef Junior kitchen?
Well, the one I got eliminated on was tough. I just didn’t have the time to experiment with my ideas about what I could use a torch to cook. I had only used a torch for bruleeing sugar, so I was a little out of my comfort zone.
What chef do you most want to cook with and why?
I would like to cook with Wolfgang Puck. He seems like he would be kind and very patient. I might have to get used to his accent though.
Besides cooking, what other things do you like to do?
I like to make up songs and movies with my friends. I also do YouTube videos like makeup tutorials, friend challenges, and tiny cooking. I love to draw and make crafts. If it is something I can use my creativity for, I like to do it!
How did you feel about watching yourself on TV?
It still feels a little strange. It is fun to see all my friends again and relive some of the fun times we had. I had a great connection with Gordon. I really think he liked me. I was really good at staying calm and supporting others. I’m proud of that!
Would you ever star in your own cooking show?
Of course! I would love to be on TV again for any kind of show. It was an amazing experience I will never forget.