Talking MASTERCHEF JUNIOR with Top 6 Competitor Kayla!
I’ve been spending some time talking to the chef contestants of one of my favorites, MASTERCHEF JUNIOR, as season 3 starts to wind down. The first of today’s chefs is 11 year old Kayla of the curly hair, infectious energy, and very calm “medic” request that punctuated her first episode (but ultimately led to a top three finish in the challenge)! We spent some time talking about what got her into cooking and she told me (voice full of 11 year old wit and sarcasm that I couldn’t get enough of), how her mom told her she would never make it on MASTERCHEF JUNIOR and why people should watch!
I wondered, when did you know you wanted to be a chef? Was it a specific moment, or just a feeling of “I love food, this is what I want to do?”
One day, my mom was sleeping on the couch, and she had just bought chocolate chips at the grocery store, and so I read the label on the back of the chocolate chips to make chocolate chip cookies, and my mom woke up like 30 minutes later, and she saw me taking cookies out of the oven and she was really confused. She thought my dad made them! I said, “It was me! I did it, and I really liked it.” She ended up having to clean up the kitchen! That was the moment that I knew I wanted to keep going with it.
What about MASTERCHEF JUNIOR – did you watch the first few seasons and think “Oh I can do this?” How did you get involved in auditioning?
I did watch the first season, and my mom’s friend texted her and said, “Kayla should totally do this”, we sat down and turned on the TV and we watched the show, and my mom said “Yeah, you really can’t do this. You’re not up to that standard” and I said “I want to go and do it!” At the end of the season, it said that if you wanted to be on the show, go to this one website. So we went to the website – my mom didn’t think I was going to get even past the first, I guess, “round” you would say, of auditioning, but apparently, I did. I’m on TV!
Do you have a favorite food that you like to cook, or is there a recipe that you go back to, that you just love?
Usually my mom buys different proteins during the week. Sometimes we have beef and pork; some days we have chicken, or stuff like that, and there are some days that I really want a certain meal but we don’t have a certain meat to make the meal, and it would taste weird! I don’t know about a pork taco; I’m more of a beef taco person. [Kayla’s mom follows up – “but what is your favorite thing to cook?”] My favorite thing to cook, or what I probably cooked most recently. I make filet mignon. I made it medium rare because that’s my favorite temperature. I made mashed potatoes and a bernaise sauce and green beans. And it came out perfect! My dad is the toughest food person that I’ve met (I’m sure there’s a lot of tougher ones), but he said the beef was cooked perfectly, and that made my day!
Talk about the show a little bit – I’ve heard from everyone I’ve talked to that everyone was just so friendly and everybody became such good friends. Have you kept in touch and what was it like working together on the show?
I agree with them! We all became friends really quickly. Not because we didn’t have a choice to, but because we were with each other all of the time. We became friends really quick and I’m glad that I stayed in touch with all of them because they’re really nice people. We were on the plane with Jenna and AJ and I started to talk to them first, and we got there. Then I started to talk to other people and we all just started to bond. We became friends. I’m so glad I became friends with them!
It’s so different than a lot of the competition shows we see where maybe competitors aren’t that nice to each other, and I really like that everyone was so supportive – Andrew helping Jenna last week.
Yes! Of course, it is a competition, but we all want everybody to go home saying “I made a lot of good friends, and I tried my hardest.”
Did you have a favorite dish you had to cook for the show or a favorite challenge?
I liked the first challenge on the show! I liked the one with the mystery box challenge with the mango and salmon. I liked being paired up with Ryan Kate. She was a great partner. We both took leadership of certain things, and our dish turned out really well. So I liked the sausage challenge, too!
Talk a little bit about the judges – working with Graham, Gordon, and Joe. What was it like working with them? Gordon is so mean in so many of his shows, but really seems nurturing to the young chefs!
It was really interesting, I guess is the word to describe it. Even though Gordon looks mean on other shows, I don’t think people know that he has kids, that he has like 5 kids. He is really nice to us! Graham and Joe are pretty nice, too. Even though, they sugar coat things, I’m not going to lie. And say, it tastes good like this, but I would have liked to see a little bit something better. They’re nicer to us. They’re still tough with their criticism. It’s just they have a way of how they say it that’s a little “sugar coating.”
Do you see cooking as your future?
Well, because I’m only 11 years old, I haven’t picked out a career choice yet, but cooking is one of the options out there. I have a lot of other hobbies, too. It would be cool to have a restaurant and get to say, oh this dish works, that dish works.
Does your family request certain recipes now that they’ve seen you cook on MASTERCHEF?
Well, we don’t really get alligator. Stores don’t really sell alligator, so I’m not going to make that any time soon! They’re pretty carefree with what I make, as long as it’s good!
Do you have a favorite to eat, even if it’s not a favorite food to cook?
I like to eat a lot of different cultures’ foods. I like pasta from Italian, I like chicken souvlaki, and that’s Greek. I recently just tried Indian food, and that was really good, too. I have a favorite food from every culture, I guess you could say!
Why do you think that MASTERCHEF JUNIOR is a show people should watching or is a show people are responding to?
I think the show is really inspiring for young kids, not only to cook, but to just go out there and try new things. I never thought I could be on MASTERCHEF JUNIOR, let alone now be in the top 6. If cooking’s not your thing, then find that thing and just go for it. I think it inspires other people to do that. They take these young kids like me, doing crazy things and they get inspired by it!
MASTERCHEF JUNIOR airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on FOX.