10-year-old from Maryland competes to be next MasterChef

A 10-year-old from Maryland will appear on MasterChef Junior to take on legendary Master Chef Gordon Ramsey.

“Overall, it was a very fun experience. And Gordon Ramsay does have a few jokes up his sleeve,” said Elijah Zelaya, who goes by ChefElijah21 on Instagram.

Elijah Zelaya in an apron emblazoned with his name.
Elijah Zelaya, 10, said he learned how to cook by being his mom’s helper. Now, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay will judge his cooking.

Ahead of the broadcast of the new episode next week, Zelaya talked about meeting celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, who is known to serve up brutally honest critiques.

“I was very excited, but also a little bit nervous. You know, because you’re meeting Gordon Ramsay. He’s like very famous,” said Zelaya.

The tiny chef, who loves preparing Haitian recipes from his mom, gave himself this advice: “Follow your heart. Don’t listen to anyone; [what] anyone says, block [it] out like the rest … Just do what you know and what you do best.”

The new show has a holiday spin on the classic show. “MasterChef Junior: Home for the Holidays” follows Gordon Ramsay and nine young culinary contestants to cook up holiday-themed treats.

It was “like, very, very, like, surreal,” said Zelaya, who said he’s currently perfecting a new favorite shrimp curry dish. Although when WTOP talked to him at his Maryland home, he had just finished preparing spaghetti and meatballs.

Zelaya said it was his mom who introduced him to cooking.

“She was on the stove a lot, teaching me new recipes,” he said. “I became like mom’s little helper. If she needed a seasoning, pass it to her. Or, if she needed me to, watch the food while she would go get something. I would be, you know, the man.”

Zelaya said when he was around six years old, “I started making dishes without my mom’s help, by myself.”

Tune in to watch “MasterChef Junior: Home for the Holidays” on Sunday, Dec. 10 and Monday, Dec. 11 at 8 p.m. on FOX, then the next day streaming on Hulu.

Heather Gustafson

Heather Gustafson is a Freelance Anchor/Reporter for WTOP, a DMV native and an Emmy award-winning journalist lauded for her 2020 Black Lives Matter protests coverage.

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