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Chef Avery Kyle may only be 12 years old, but her skills go far beyond her years. When she was 9, Avery traveled to California to prove her talents at MasterChef Junior and didn’t go without leaving a trail of her southern charm and spice behind her.

Out of the thousands of children and teens who apply to be on MasterChef Junior, a competitive cooking reality TV show on Fox, only 24 are chosen to compete each season. The show can be intense for someone who’s barely 9 years old, but Avery said she knew that she could take the heat.  

“My mom always tells people that when I was 4 I was already asking to cut vegetables,” Avery said. “Clearly I had some waiting to do.”

Avery knew she wanted to be a chef since she was young enough to say the word. Her infatuation for cooking was greatly influenced by her parents, she said. Her family is always cooking, whether it is for the holidays, family gatherings or just any other day. Her family particularly loves cooking southern delicacies, which is where her inspiration came from in many of the MasterChef Junior competitions.

From the time that Avery first saw the show on Fox as a young child, she wanted to be on it. Unfortunately, participants must be 8 years or older, so she had to wait until she met the requirements. She started cooking, with assistance from her parents, when she was about 5 years old. She quickly learned how to grill and cook duck, which is a hard skill for anyone to learn, much less a child.

As soon as Avery turned 8, she begged her parents to let her audition. She said they fully supported her dreams but were obviously hesitant about applying because of her young age. Her parents wanted to make sure she was realistic, so they prepared her for a negative outcome. She sent in her audition tape, which was a home-video of her cooking, and she quickly received the green light from MasterChef saying she made it past the first audition.

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“I was so thrilled to make it through the first auditions, but I wasn’t going to give up then,” Avery said. 

After her second audition, Avery’s parents filled out loads of paperwork, including intense background checks to ensure Avery would be the perfect contestant for the show. Her parents were also told that Avery would be in California for as little as three days or as long as two months.

Once Avery made the final cut before production, she was ready to compete and was given her signature look by the producers — she was set to wear pigtails, overalls and plaid, which worked out well because she already brought many pairs of overalls.  

“I had no idea what I was supposed to pack, so I just packed almost everything and left,” Avery said.

Avery’s time in the competition was not short by any means. She made it into the final two, but said the three months flew by more quickly than she thought.

MasterChef Junior was not a piece of cake, even for a chef like Avery, she said. She was constantly filming or waiting to hear nerve-racking results. The high-stress environment pushed her to her limits, but she said she enjoyed every second because she got to do what she loved.

MasterChef Junior initially filmed only one episode a week, but once the number of contestants dwindled down they filmed up to four episodes a week, with little time to prepare in between.

Avery was one of the younger contestants, but it clearly didn’t affect her role on the show. Famous Chef Gordon Ramsay, producer and judge on the show, especially liked her crawfish etouffee and even asked for her recipe.

Even coming in second place, she still represented Louisiana well and left after the finale with grace and southern charm.

“Being on the show was definitely one of the best experiences of my life,” Avery said.

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