She may only be 10-years-old, but Chef Avery Kyle knows a thing or two about cooking good food.
Cooking has been a pastime that brought Kyle’s family together. The Kyle clan cooked family meals together almost every night at home, which sparked Kyle’s interest in helping her mother with preparing the food. Soon Kyle knew how to recreate her grandfather’s crawfish étouffée, her grandmother’s deviled eggs and had learned baking from her aunt and grilling from her mother.
“We would always cook, and I would be doing my thing wandering around, but then I would be like, ‘Mom, can I stir this?’ and all this knowledge just started going and going,” Kyle said. “The first time I asked to help was to cut something, and my mom said, ‘No, you’re not doing that, you’re four years old.’”
While Kyle still participated in soccer and gymnastics like other children, she was drawn to cooking by how it brought her family together as a way to relax at the end of the day.
“We like to relax,” Kyle said. “It was a nice thing to cook and have a meal with our family. That was just what we did every night.”
As she grew, she learned more culinary techniques from her mother’s cookbooks, until she started making her own recipes. Ever since she was 4 years old, Kyle has wanted to be a part of “MasterChef Junior.” However, it would be a few years before she was able to audition.
“By the time I was 8 years old and I could [audition], I saw the commercial and that reminded me. I got on my iPad and told my dad ‘Oh dad, all we have to do is be in Houston by tomorrow morning.’”
There was no need for the long drive from Baton Rouge to Houston, as Kyle submitted a home video audition. After a callback, she was able to be on the show.
“We sent in two videos, one for the audition and one for the callback,” Kyle said. “One of them I did voodoo season salmon with lump crab meat…in a garlic butter sauce, and the other was something with lamb chops.”
As Kyle prepped for her cooking demo in her home with DIG, she explained that she’d be making one of the dishes from the show consisting of seared scallops with a pea purée and a spinach salad.
“It’s so simple yet elegant and delicious,” Kyle said, as the appealing aroma of seasoned food wafted from her family’s kitchen.
The first item Kyle prepared was the salad consisting of spinach, butter, garlic, onions and bell pepper. She explained that it’s a very easy dish to make, prepared over medium heat.
“You’re looking for a little bit of golden caramelization on the onions and stuff like that,” Kyle said. “With this, it’s meant to be crunchy. Just whenever you start to put in the spinach, you really do need to mix it, because it’s really hard to mix it when it’s all cooked.”
Finished with the salad, she turned on low heat for her pea purée made of peas, water, salt, pepper and oil that was puréed in a blender. While it heated, she began working on the scallops, making sure they were completely dry before placing them in the pan.
“You want to hear them sizzle right away,” Kyle said.
It’s been six months since the finale of MasterChef Junior where Kyle was the runner-up, and she has been busy with cooking demos and guest appearances at events such as The Taste.
Some of her favorite experiences from “MasterChef Junior” actually did not occur on the set; but at the hotel.
“Whenever we just had free time, we would all go out and sit by the pool and just relax,” Kyle said. “But we did not have very much off time, the one off day that we normally had was Sunday…so we went to church every day. And then also, we would go to one contestant’s room and order pizza and have a pizza party and share all of our cookbooks.”
While pizza is certainly delicious, one cannot survive on cheese, sauce and crust alone.
“We were gone for six weeks, and that’s a long time eating hotel food,” Kyle said. “So we bought a toaster oven, and we cooked lamb chops and chicken breasts in there, and cooked corn in the microwave.”
According to Kyle, she still keeps in touch with the other contestants, as they got along very well during the show.
“Actually, we still have a huge group text, so we always text on that,” Kyle said. “All the kids got along really well, but the parents were all in it to win it.”
Chef Gordon Ramsay is widely known for his soft spot for children, and according to Kyle, he was very encouraging on the show.
“He loves kids,” Kyle said. “He likes kids a lot better…rather than [adults] who had all been cooking for years and are supposed to know what they’re doing. He has a soft side, he does…I cut myself one time and the blood got all over the food, and I had 10 minutes left to finish, but Ramsay told me to keep on going, and how to regroup, and I got everything back together.”
Kyle also received training in the form of family friend Chef William Wells of Culinary Productions, who taught her a few things when he would come over for visits.
“He actually helped me prepare for the show,” Kyle said. “He was a big help and influence to me.”
Cooking isn’t the only activity that Kyle loves. The young girl also adores riding her dirt bike and participating in gymnastics, swimming, soccer, dance, voice lessons, acting lessons, guitar lessons and piano lessons. How does she balance it all?
“It’s kind of like, this week you do this, this week you do that,” Kyle said, explaining that she can fit two or three things into her daily schedule. “I kind of group it all together.”
So it may not come as a surprise when asked if she wants to be a chef when she’s older, Kyle said she has other plans for her future.
“I take cooking more as a relaxation thing, just to calm down; as a hobby,” Kyle said. “I’m actually planning on being an actor all the way through college, and then in college go to law school, and then be a lawyer just like my mom.”
Photo by Greta Jines.