Che wins! Onteora middle schooler is the next Master Chef Junior

Che Spiotta (Photo by Dion Ogust)

Three nervous young people in white aprons stood on the stage set of FOX Network’s MasterChef Junior 7th season finale of its cooking competition between kids aged 8 through 13, with a cheering audience as well as parents facing three stern adults and an audience of millions on national television. The host with his British accent, intoned “and you are the final three standing…”

Minutes before, Onteora 7th grader, 13-year-old Che Spiotta, son of Elizabethanne and the late Jason Spiotta, had waited in the wings. “I’ve cooked better than I’ve ever done before, I’ve done everything I could possibly do…and now I want to start my culinary revolution. I’m so close to the trophy, I just need to grab on to it…”

The British accent announces, “Your performances have been outstanding, but this is a competition and only one can take home the victory and receive this, a check for $100,000…the winner of Master Chef Junior (long pause) Congratulations (loooonger pause) Che!”

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Confetti falls from the ceiling like a blizzard and the teen falls to his knees, then over backwards as the stage is rushed by audience members. Hugs are in order for his two competitors, and they both graciously say how Che deserved to win. 

When the hoopla dies down, Che is interviewed. “Oh my Gosh, I can’t believe I won, I won Master Chef junior I’ve been dreaming of this for so long and I finally won. I’m so happy and excited…I wish I could share this trophy with them (his two fellow finalists), they deserve it…

“My dad got me started cooking and now I have the trophy and it’s all because of him. If my dad could see me now, he would be so proud of me…I am the next Master Chef Junior…!”

Ulster Publishing’s Ann Hutton caught up with Che on the day before the final episode aired, before he could reveal the outcome. 

Cooking under giddy pressure with Chef Gordon Ramsay, renowned pastry diva Christina Tosi, and chef/restaurateur Aaron Sanchez scrutinizing, Che and his culinary compatriots have outdone themselves: trying this recipe, that method, being challenged with surprises, cooking in a two-star restaurant, and learning a lot along the way. It’s been a long, fun adventure since his first tryout in 2017. 

Che Spiotta: I’m pretty anxious, I can’t wait for everyone to see tomorrow night.

Ann Hutton: Do you consider yourself a competitive person?

Absolutely. I have two brothers. There’s always competition.

Yeah, the middle kid has to fight both ways, right? How many kids started out on MasterChef Junior?

We started with 24.

Did you make friends with anybody?

Definitely! We text all the time. They live all over, a couple in New York, which is cool because I can see them. One in California, one in Rhode Island. We surprisingly see each other a lot. 

These are the kinds of relationships you might have for the rest of your life.

Definitely!

Has anything shifted for you after having put so much time into the game itself? Has anything changed for you personally? Something about your character or what you learned about life?

(He thinks about it and talks it over with his mother Elizabethanne, who has supported him competing as long as he’s having fun doing it.)

I don’t know. I don’t think that much has changed really. 

You’re your same old self?

Yeah. 

Sometimes it takes years to look back and realize that an experience might have steered you in a different direction. The Before Che and the After Che. Is there anything you foresee being a problem in such a highly exposed competition like this? Like, imagine kids who make it to the Olympics and then they lose? Is anyone ever ready to lose?

I don’t think anyone is ever ready to lose. But I have an older brother, so I lose often. I don’t think that should be an issue. I’ve had experience with losing. I think it will be fine with me. I’ll be cool with it. 

It turns out that losing was not in the cards.

All of this season’s MasterChef Junior episodes can be viewed on Fox.com, including Tuesday night’s finale. Check this one out so get a sense of some of the crazy things Che and the others have experienced: https://www.fox.com/watch/2174f324ec94cba51b01aa8f0fd12fc3/. 

And congratulations to the local MasterChef Junior!