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.
Justise’s recipe for chicken bruschetta pasta
1 box of pasta
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
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.
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.