Malia Brauer – Cooking Up Courage & Following Her Dream

by | Jul 21, 2019 | Cover Story

At 12 years-old, Malia Brauer is already an accomplished chef who is well on her way to the top. As a contestant on season seven of MasterChef Junior, she wowed the judges and viewers at home with her mature demeanor and prowess in the kitchen. Throughout the season, Malia competed with 24 other junior home cooks from around the country for the prestigious title of MasterChef Junior and the $100,000 grand prize.

When Malia was four she began learning her way around the kitchen from her great grandmother who taught her traditional Japanese recipes. “She taught me how to make sushi and then my mom carried that tradition on,” said Malia in an exclusive interview. As Malia continued to help her mom (Deanna) prepare family meals, she took a real interest in cooking and began to research recipes she could try on her own. “I wanted to help out my mom, she always makes meals for us and she already does a lot for us, so I thought let me try and help her,” Malia stated. The young chef on the rise immersed herself in all things cooking: attempting more complex recipes like her favorite dish salmon pesto wrapped in a phyllo dough, taking over cooking family meals, and watching television shows including MasterChef Junior. After much consideration, Deanna decided to enter Malia in the competition. “I did not want to be the person to crush her dreams and going in I constantly thought, Malia is already a winner to me and I did not need a show to tell me that, she is a winner because she decided to follow her dreams and take a chance against the odds,” said Deanna.
The process for getting on MasterChef Junior is quite rigorous. From pre-registering to the self-tape cooking demos, Malia and Deanna worked very hard to meet deadlines and impress judges. Out of thousands of applicants, Malia moved on to the next phase of the audition process and eventually became one of the top 24 junior home cooks to compete. “We stayed in a hotel, and when it came down to a decision, someone slipped a note under our door that said, ‘go to the ballroom’ and there they told us we were on the show,” Malia commented.
Over the next year, Malia participated in several challenges winning some of them, including the Lobster, Citrus, Cupcake challenges and so many more. “I won the cupcake challenge with Jaala [another contestant and now long time friend], we made an orange cupcake with cinnamon frosting.” This recipe was such a hit amongst the celebrity judges that it will be featured in the second MasterChef Junior cookbook, “MasterChef Junior Bakes!” which will be available this October. Her toughest but most rewarding challenge was the restaurant takeover challenge, where the Top 6 cooked and plated dinner service at a 2-Michelin star restaurant in Santa Monica.  The kitchen was hot with ovens cranked up high to allow for temperature adjustments with ovens opening. Gordon Ramsay was their expediter tactfully shouting out orders that the junior chefs had to keep up with.  The reward was seeing the faces of the dining patrons as they discovered their dinners were prepared by kids. She continued to wow the judges throughout the competition with her quick thinking, innovative recipes which she incorporated a lot of what she learned from her mom and great grandmother, and her signature bandana. “I wear my bandana because I like putting my own stamp on things, it’s also cute and really good way to keep my hair back,” Malia explained.
During the show, Malia had the opportunity to work closely with renowned celebrity chefs such as Gordon Ramsay, Christina Tosi and her idol Aarón Sanchez. Malia is a big fan and appreciated Christina’s detailed feedback on Malia’s dishes, especially her desserts. Although Gordon has a reputation on television, as being very strict and brutally honest, he is quite caring and patient with the young competitors. “Gordon Ramsay was super nice and gives really good criticism; and I really like Aarón Sanchez’s cooking style, I love his Latin flare: he uses a lot of spices and color in his plating.”
Although Malia did not win the grand prize, she was in the final three and competed in the MasterChef Junior finale. After appearing on MasterChef Junior, Malia continues to work hard to perfect her skills and learning different ways on putting the “Malia” spin on dishes. When she is not learning new recipes, she is involved in many extracurricular activities. “I compete often with my dance team” She hopes to one day own her own catering company or to become a nurse. Her advice to children and even adults who want to start cooking is, “you want to start off small and work your way up, try and help your parents out in the kitchen, then go up to making things in pans then finally working on a full meal.”

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