Chef Ayla tells us about cooking in the MASTERCHEF JUNIOR kitchen!
Today’s second MASTERCHEF JUNIOR Chef-Talk comes from my chat with now-12-year-old Ayla, from St Louis, MO. The excited young chef has made it to the top 6 of the competition that we’ll see go from 6 to 4 in tonight’s all new episode. She’s quietly made her way through the competition with a few wins along the way, and I spent time quizzing her about when she started cooking and where she sees herself in the future!
Was there a moment where you were in the kitchen and thought “I want to be a chef” or was it just a love of food? How did you know you wanted to start cooking?
Ok, so I pretty much started cooking when I was 7. I remember being in the kitchen with my mom, like, okay, I need to open something that I could cook. I just want to cook; I love cooking. I want to do something with it! I remember her saying, all right, I don’t really know what you want to do cooking wise, so that’s when I started going to cooking school, and that’s pretty much where I learned how to cook, took cooking classes, that’s where I learned all my basics, and that’s where I learned that I want to be a chef when I grow up.
Do you have a favorite food that you love to cook?
Oh yes! It’s called pumpkin corn soup. That’s my favorite thing to make; that’s my dish.
Talk about getting involved in MASTERCHEF JUNIOR – did you watch and then want to be a part of it?
It all started – I didn’t really know the show, but my dad kind of did; he kind of watched it. I remember my mom was sitting down with us at dinner, and she got a call from this lady, who said “hey we saw this little girl on your cooking website, and we want to come in and cook for us and come and audition for this show!” My mom was like, uh, I don’t really know what you’re talking about, but we’ll do it! So we drove out to Chicago like two or three times, I think. They kept saying “oh you need to come back!” and we were like, we don’t live in Chicago; we live in St Louis! It was like a 6 hour drive. They kept calling us back and back! After going to the audition, I started watching videos of the show, season 1, and how it was a cooking show for kids; we didn’t really know that. I was like, this show looks really, really difficult, and has the three most, well, I think they’re pretty scary, three judges. I was pretty surprised that they wanted me to be on the show. I went in and auditioned; it was pretty much a month after that when we started filming the show!
You mention these three scary guys, these judges – Gordon, Graham, and Joe – what was it like actually working with them on the show?
Oh my gosh! It was so much fun! They are like the nicest people ever in the whole entire world! You would think Chef Ramsey would be so mean and rude and yell in your face. No, he’s like the exact opposite. He’s the nicest person in the whole entire world. I thought he was mean because all of shows like KITCHEN NIGHTMARES and HELL’S KITCHEN – I just thought he was horrible on those shows. But no, he was so nice! All of the judges were just awesome.
What I love about the show is how you all seem to pick each other up – someone is crying, you’re there giving hugs. You all seemed to really bond.
Oh my gosh!! It was so much fun! We all still stay in contact. Like, I have a birthday coming up [it was this past weekend]. They’re all literally, MASTERCHEF kids are coming. They’re all my best friends. Working with them was so amazing. I remember this one time, I had trouble with my dish, and I really didn’t know what to do for it, and they all came around like “you can make this, you can throw in a little of that,” and they’re just all so supportive. They’re supportive of me and I’m supportive of them, so I know that we were all best friends, and it was definitely not an act at all!
It sets the show aside – you are competing, and everybody wants to win, but on what other show will another competitor stop like that and given advice?
I think we all kind of connected because we all had one thing in common. We all love cooking and that’s kind of our passion. We’re all kids for one, so we got along perfect the first day we met.
What was your favorite challenge that you got to do that we’ve seen? Or is there one that makes you never want to try that food again?
My favorite one I did was the sushi challenge. That was the tag team one. That was my funnest experience on that show. I was like thinking to myself – I don’t know how to make sushi, this is going to be so hard!! And we had to make a replica of the boat, and I was thinking “how am I going to do this; I have no idea how to do this” and then Chef Ramsey was like “yeah, we’re going to do it tag team” so Jimmy was my partner. I was so thankful for him and being my partner. Cooking the dish, I remember being in our station and just trying to get the salmon the perfect size, and having to roll it up in the perfect way. It was very intricate, you could say. I remember smelling that ginger! Pickled ginger; I hate pickled ginger! So bad! That was my funnest!
With a challenge like that, where you don’t necessarily know how to make it or what to make – what do you do in the moments where you’re not sure?
Pretty much, you had to think of it out of the blue real quick. They’re not going to judge you that hard; we still are kids, so they still want to take it kind of easy on you, but you did have to think of things out of nowhere, how to fix a dish really quick. We definitely had to be kind of skilled to be on the show, I guess you could say?
Looking at your future, do you want to go into a certain cooking “area” / genre, or do you hope to do it all?
I honestly want to do it all. I love cooking from the easiest dish you can think of, to the hardest dish, I love cooking no matter what you’re making. It could be desserts, appetizers, entrees, main dish, I don’t care what it is; I’ll tackle it! I just love cooking so I think I would be in the path of all foods, comfort foods, Italian foods, I’ll do all of it!
Why do you think people should tune into MASTERCHEF JUNIOR or what are you hearing from people about why they watch?
I heard from people, especially my family, they are like, okay, kids, with three judges, and they only have like an hour, okay, definitely, they’re going to watch that, of course they would! That’s why I think people will watch it because they want to see are these grownups cooking, like on CHOPPED or something? Oh, no, these are actually kids cooking, with like the youngest competitor, Riley, man. He’s an 8 year old cooking! I think that’s why people will watch it.
MASTERCHEF JUNIOR airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on FOX.