What I Learned on MasterChef Junior

Kayla Mitchell, the 11-year-old from Center Moriches, Long Island, talks about competing on Season 3 of MasterChef Junior, including her favorite and least favorite challenges on the show, and what her plans are for the future.

kayla mitchell masterchef

My name is Kayla Mitchell and I was a contestant on MasterChef Junior. My journey began when I started to express an interest in cooking at the age of 7½ years old. I was very sick with pneumonia and the flu at the same time, and while I was at home, I watched cooking shows and wanted to make everything I saw. I still remember the day that I made chocolate chip cookies (the recipe was on the back of the chocolate chip bag). While I was cooking, my mom came rushing downstairs because I was pulling cookies out of the oven without ANY supervision!

I really enjoy cooking because I can be creative with everything: how I plate, what flavors go together, and preparing dishes with multiple textures. I don’t really have a favorite cuisine to cook. Actually, when I open a restaurant, I’m planning to focus on cooking one culture per month. My customers can experience different cultures without having to leave me! For example, on the show I made a lot of different cultural foods like Italian, Japanese, and even British.

masterchef junior kayla and jimmy

Kayla (right) and Jimmy in the Junior Edition: Restaurant Takeover episode.

One of my favorite dishes I cooked on the show was my mango turnovers. I’m so glad the judges took an interest in my style of cooking where I combined sweet and savory together. Another favorite dish of mine was the sausage with polenta and sautéed vegetables that I made with the help of Ryan Kate. We worked extremely well together and our flavor profiles were on point. My least favorite challenge and dish I made was the sushi challenge. I HATE sushi because I don’t like the idea of eating raw fish, let alone making it, and I also fought with one of my best friends, Jenna.

kayla with family

Stuffing the turkey every Thanksgiving morning is a tradition at the Mitchell’s house for Kayla (right), sister Lauryn (8), and their grammy, Maria Ciappa, who is also from Center Moriches.

I am extremely proud of myself. I made it into the top six out of thousands of kids who tried out. I mean, I think I could have won the show, but even though I didn’t, I am just overall amazed that I was given an amazing opportunity. I made a lot of new friends on the show as well. They were so nice and so much fun to be around and I hope I get to see them all soon. While I was taping the show in Los Angeles, I missed my hometown friends so much and they missed me a lot too.  They have, and continue, to support my cooking efforts. They come over and we play cooking games, I cook for them, and I even teach them different techniques too! Actually, my hometown and even all of Long Island is my biggest support group. I love them and because we are such a small town, nobody is ever intimidated to ask for a picture or an autograph and I’m happy to give it to them! Anytime!

kayla and friends

“Having fun with my friends is one of my favorite pasttimes when I’m not cooking,” Kayla says.

I’m so glad I was on the show. I learned a lot of new techniques, I loved cooking with unique ingredients and fun cooking gadgets, and most importantly, how to handle friendships and stress! My advice to kids who like to cook is just don’t be afraid to try new things. Step out of your comfort zone because that is how great chefs are made. Like I said before, I hope to have a multi-cultural restaurant someday, but because I’m only 11, I don’t know for certain what my career plans for the future will be.  I just know that whatever I plan to do, I will go for it and keep my head held high!

Thank you to everyone who gave me love and support throughout this journey and I will keep cooking! 

kayla cooking at home