For most 13-year-olds, cooking boils down to pouring a bowl of cereal, slathering peanut butter on a slice of bread (because toast takes too long), or — if they’re feeling fancy — microwaving a cup of mac and cheese.
Che Spiotta is not most 13-year-olds. A Hudson Valley native, Spiotta has made his mark in the kitchen since the tender age of four. Now, the Boiceville native puts his culinary skills to the test as he competes on season 7 of MasterChef Junior.
“It was a really great experience,” says Spiotta of the filming process, which gave him the chance to show his stuff in front of legendary chef Gordon Ramsay, pastry chef Christina Tosi, and chef and restaurateur Aarón Sánchez. The season, which is currently underway, pushes budding chefs in the 8 to 13 age bracket to their limits. Thus far, the kids have already had to create the perfect banana split, cook for a circus, tackle mystery boxes, and debone a fish. (We don’t even know how to debone a fish.)
Photo by Nigel Barker
Spiotta, who just made it through episode four, admits that he was a bit nervous going into filming, which took place in Los Angeles.
“I tried to keep the nerves down,” he says, adding that the friendships he forged along the way helped to create a communal environment throughout the filming process. “I made so many friends there.”
Nevertheless, he still had to prepare for the unavoidable criticism from the judges.
“They were super nice, but they definitely critique you,” he admits. Yet he’s happy to report that Gordon Ramsay is nowhere near as fearsome as some believe him to be. “He’s really nice!”
Photo by FOX
While Spiotta enjoys the challenge of cooking new things (you should see the pan-seared salmon he made!), he also loves whipping up classic dishes for his family at home in Boiceville. His favorite meals to prepare are always the ones that let him be creative. Although he’s humble about his successes, his mother is happy to point out that he makes some mean crumb cake, poached eggs, and steak. How many 13-year-olds do you know who cook steak, let alone cook it well?
Of course, risotto is hands-down his favorite.
“You can kind of do whatever you want, and the results are pretty delicious too,” he notes. As someone who is gluten-intolerant, Spiotta has become adept at creating dishes that are scrumptious and gluten-free. Although he doesn’t deny that cooking with such a restriction can be difficult at times, he sees it as a challenge to be more creative and to venture outside of his culinary comfort zone.
Photo by FOX
Speaking of venturing out, the young foodie loves to explore new places to eat in the Hudson Valley. He cites Peekamoose Restaurant & Tap Room as a top pick, along with Diego’s Taqueria and Rough Draft Bar & Books in Kingston. He’s also become quite the pro at ranking gluten-free pizza in the region.
“[Resort Ridge Pizza in Phoenicia] makes the best gluten-free pizza,” he reveals, noting that the fluffy, garlic sesame crust really sets it apart.
While there’s still a way to go until MasterChef Junior comes to a close (the finale airs on June 4 at 8 p.m.), viewers can tune in on FOX every Tuesday night at 8 p.m. to follow along with Spiotta as he whips up one delectable bite after the next. In the meantime, he’ll be dreaming about a future career as a chef or maybe even a food talk show host. As long as he still has a chance to continue the conversation about food (and take vacations!), he’ll be one happy clam.
“I love having conversations and relationships with people,” he says.
MasterChef Junior airs on FOX on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET. Check your cable provider for local channel listings.