Meet the kid chef from Gwinnett who’s starring on a national cooking show, “MasterChef Junior”


Justise Mayberry’s love for cooking began at 4 years old , when she helped her father with prep work and tasted his food before it was served.

Now 12, Mayberry, has become a culinary star. The Gwinnett County youngster is one of three metro Atlantans who made the final cut (there were initially five) on the FOX television show MasterChef Junior. The episodes were filmed last year, and the winner will be revealed on the show’s finale in May. She’s one of six finalists on the show.

Afnan, from Jonesboro, was eliminated in Thursday’s episode after his sushi platter failed to impress the judges. It ends a strong run for the young and very talented chef. Meanwhile, Jasmine and her teammate won the sushi challenge.

Mayberry, a sixth-grader at Lanier Middle School, recently talked to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about her experience on the show, her interview she did with Michelle Obama and her love of softball.

Here are some excerpts.

What got you interested in cooking?

I was surrounded by it with my dad cooking all the time…Him being in the kitchen, that was the center of our house. That’s where we would hang out. I would always hang around him when he cooked, and it just kind of taught me to enjoy that and get used to it, and it’s something I enjoy now.

Do you remember the first dish you made, and how good was it?

It was a breakfast sandwich. I made it for my dad, but I can’t remember what I put on it…I just whipped some things together. I was kind of shocked how much he loved it, but it was a plain old breakfast sandwich, in my opinion, with an egg on it, and he just loved it.

What is it like for you to be on this show?

I like it. I think it’s a great experience for me to get out there. I want to be a teacher, and now that I think of it, a teacher that teaches cooking is something I’d be more interested in. I love it, but at the same time, I don’t want it to get in the way of anything else like school or friends or family. With friends, I don’t want them to think I’m showing off because I get asked something about the show almost like every day at school by somebody.

What is the toughest aspect of being on the show?

It’s being away from friends and family and from school and sports.

What is it like being on the set with (host and celebrity chef) Gordon Ramsay?

I feel like Gordon is just Gordon. He is himself on camera and off camera. He’s tough. He can be that kind of person like when it’s time to get to work, it’s time to work. He can make you respect the ones that you’re serving. When we’re off the set and relaxing, he’s funny. He can be that type of person who motivates you.

You had an opportunity to interview then-first lady Michelle Obama in the White House after winning a challenge from her on the show. What was that experience like for you?

That was absolutely amazing! She is a tall, gorgeous and extremely intelligent woman. I never really thought I would get to meet her…You start talking to her, and hey, we have something in common! Just being at the White House was an amazing experience. Sonny and Bo (the Obama dogs) were the sweetest things ever. I feel like we made a connection when we were there. The only thing about it is I would never in my entire life want to live there unless I got to upgrade it or downgrade it wherever I wanted to because I felt like I couldn’t touch anything because it was so expensive.

What advice would you give children who want to learn how to cook and don’t know how to do it?

All I would really have to say is you can do it. I know that might sound kind of silly, but that’s the truth. If you don’t know how to cook and all you do is try, keep trying because it is going to happen.

What do you want people who watch the show to learn about you?

I hope that they learn the true me. I’m not that kind of person who is going to go on TV and not be me. I don’t believe in that. I think that is silly. I hope people get to see me. The sporty me. The tomboy me. I’m going to be myself if I’m around you.

RELATED: Do the three Atlanta area kids move on to the next round in ‘MasterChef Junior?’

Justise’s recipe for chicken bruschetta pasta

Ingredients:

1 box of pasta

2 tomatoes

2 chicken breasts

Basil to taste (for garnish)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 or 1 red onion

4 tablespoons of balsamic glaze

Parmesan cheese to taste

1 tablespoon garlic

Paprika to taste

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Boil pasta in salted water.

Season chicken with paprika, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper.

Sear chicken on both sides until cooked thoroughly.

Glaze cooked chicken in balsamic glaze.

Strain pasta.

Add two tablespoons of tomato paste, 2 freshly chopped tomatoes, 1 red onion, and fresh basil to strained pasta.

Add the chicken to the top of the pasta with parmesan, basil, and balsamic glaze to garnish.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Food

The Atlanta Cheese Fest is days away. Have you secured your tickets?
The Atlanta Cheese Fest is days away. Have you secured your tickets?

An annual Atlanta event geared towards cheese aficionados takes place this weekend.  The Cheese Fest, back for the fifth year in a row, will feature more than 500 international cheeses and 100 cheese producers.  Guests can have an unlimited amount of cheese samples, peruse a cheese shop and listen to live music. Craft beer and wine will...
Athens named among the South’s most underrated food cities
Athens named among the South’s most underrated food cities

USA Today named Athens, Ga., one of the South’s most underrated food cities. Athens-based Creature Comforts was one of a handful of destinations cited in the article. By Caleigh Derreberry As home to the University of Georgia, Athens is mainly known as a college town. But it got a national nod for its dining scene. USA Today...
We tried four different kinds of tuna — find out which we liked best
We tried four different kinds of tuna — find out which we liked best

  We were ready to deploy our toothbrushes after this week’s Snapchat Taste Test, which saw us trying five different kinds of tuna. Check out what we thouigh     More taste tests Explore where to eat in Atlanta with the AJC’s Spring Dining Guide Read more stories like this by   ...
Musician Zac Brown partners with Dahlonega distillery
Musician Zac Brown partners with Dahlonega distillery

Zac Brown / AJC file photo The nearly year-old Stillhouse Creek Distillery in Dahlonega has rebranded to Z. Brown Distillery in what they are calling a “strategic alliance” with the Grammy award-winning Zac Brown of the Zac Brown Band . The distillery, located in Brown&rsquo...
Grits dinner hosted by a James Beard Award-winning chef, Cobb Restaurant Week and more in metro Atlanta this week
Grits dinner hosted by a James Beard Award-winning chef, Cobb Restaurant Week and more in metro Atlanta this week

James Beard Award-winning chef Virginia Willis to host a four-course grits dinner at Food 101. Photo credit: 101 Concepts. Three-course prix fixe dinners during Cobb Restaurant Week. Grits dinner hosted by a James Beard Award-wining chef. There are several fun, food events happening in Atlanta, so add one or all four of the following activities...
More Stories