ALIVE Q&A: 'MasterChef Junior' Semifinalist Ayla Davis

By Tessa Shull
In Food

When season three of “MasterChef Junior” hit televisions around the nation on Jan. 6, just-turned-12 Ayla Davis cooked her way through several of the competitions with the heart—and the food—of a fierce chef.

Ayla began cooking with guidance from her mother, Faronda Davis, who owns  Chesterfield’s ABC Chefs Cooking Academy and Honey Kids Kitchen. It’s a history that helped the wunderkind hold her own all the way until the show’s semifinals Feb. 10.

To get a taste of her “MasterChef” world, ALIVE caught up with the young chef and her mother, who have recently relocated to LA.

CR: Greg Gayne / FOX. © 2014 FOX Broadcasting Co."

CR: Greg Gayne / FOX. © 2014 FOX Broadcasting Co.

ALIVE: What made you decide to audition for “MasterChef Junior?”
Ayla Davis: I thought that I was a pretty good chef—enough to go on TV—and I can cook. I would see all these chefs go on TV and have their own cooking shows, and I just really wanted to do that. So, we heard a thing about “MasterChef Junior” and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, yeah, I’ll go in and do that,” and I got a whole bunch of callbacks, and I actually made it on the show, which is a huge accomplishment in my life.

ALIVE: What was the experience like for you?
Faronda Davis: I think that my experience was great. I met some wonderful children; my daughter met some lifetime friends; the parents were really cool; the staff was great… It was a little stressful at times seeing the kids being eliminated, because you get so close with them, you know? But it was a great experience.

ALIVE: Ayla, you worked with all the judges: Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliot. Who was your favorite judge to work with?
Ayla: Oh my gosh, all of them. They were like the nicest people in the whole entire world. If I had to choose a favorite though, I would probably say Joe…

ALIVE: Was Gordon as scary as everyone makes him out to be?
Ayla: Oh, no … He was like the nicest person ever. I used to think he was mean, though, because of his shows, like “Kitchen Nightmares” and “Hell’s Kitchen.” I used to think he was really, really mean and tough and that he was going to yell at us, but as it turns out, he’s really nice. I was really surprised at that.

ALIVE: What would you say was your favorite part of being on “MasterChef Junior”?
Ayla: All the friends and contestants I met … I think we all just clicked because we have one thing in common: we all love to cook. So, we all just kind of clicked on that one thing, but we’re all such good friends.

ALIVE: Are you still able to keep in touch with everyone?
Ayla:
Oh yeah, we text every single day. We text every single time we have a show.

ALIVE: Did you already know how to make all of your dishes for the challenges or were you able to prep at all beforehand?
Ayla: No, I actually knew them all.

ALIVE: What was the best tip that you took home from the show?
Ayla: It was that there are no limits and anything is possible. I was just on national TV, which is pretty much a huge deal, and I feel like I can conquer the world.

ALIVE: I know that you grew up in St. Louis, so where’s your favorite place to eat in the area?
Ayla: Oh my gosh…YaYa’s. I love YaYa’s.

ALIVE: When did you start cooking?
Ayla: When I was 7 years old. I remember being in the kitchen with my mom and we were cooking apple pie, and I’m like, “I need space to cook,” and then she’s like, “All right, write down some ideas,” and it turns out those ideas got [to be] a huge, huge business and cooking school.

ALIVE: What is one word that describes your cooking?
Ayla: Fantastic.

ALIVE: I heard that you wanted to take over your parents’ cooking school, Honey Kids Kitchen. Has that always been your dream?
Ayla: Yeah, I actually opened it when I was 7. I took after my mom’s footsteps, and that’s pretty much how I got started cooking.

ALIVE: What would you say that St. Louis has added to both you and Ayla’s cooking?
FD: It’s our home. We love it there. We love the support … It’s where we started … St. Louis has stood behind us 100 percent from day one. So, definitely, St. Louis has a huge influence on Ayla and just my family.

ALIVE: Do you have anything about the show you’ve been wanting to share that no one ever asks you about?
Ayla: Yeah, well, one thing is that Joe came up to me—this is like a huge deal, because he said about my chicken alfredo, “You can come cook on my yacht any time you want because you’re an awesome chef.”

Savvy, sassy and with some serious culinary chops: St. Louis better keep an eye out for this powerhouse.

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