Who will be the next Bobby Flay, Thomas Keller or Rachel Ray? That question could be answered Friday night as "Top Chef Junior" reveals its grand prize winner selected from among the top young chefs in the country competing for a $50,000 grand prize.
After months of competing with ten other 11 through 14-year-old contestants, Oakland native Rahanna Bisseret Martinez and Baltimore born Owen Pereira remain the last chefs standing for the finale which airs Friday on Universal Kids.
The kid-friendly spin-off of Bravo’s hit show "Top Chef" debuted back in October and throughout the past three months Owen and Rahanna have been put to the test in professional challenges like "restaurant wars" and the "quickfire challenge."
Rahanna, 13, first learned how to cook by watching American chef and TV personality Julia Child. Child, she says, was an inspiration to her and showed amateur chefs could cook just as well as professionals, something she hopes to do with children her age one day.
Throughout the show she showcased her love and passion for Mexican and Louisiana cuisine, exploring different depths of flavor and complex elegant styles.
“I really liked all the dishes I made because of the way I interpreted them. I wanted to show that Mexican and Louisiana food could be regal and refined,” she said.
Owen, 14, dreams of owning his own three-star Michelin French-inspired restaurant. During his time on the show, Owen learned the level of attention to detail and technique that comes with mastering French Cuisine and European style.
“It's more than just reading and doing. If you learn a recipe for one specific food you can only do that one thing but if you learn a technique you can apply that to so many different things,” Owen said.
Head judge and award-winning chef-restaurateur Curtis Stone got the opportunity to observe and taste all of the food on the show and praised both finalists for their work ethic and attitudes.
“We throw so much information at them over the course of the show and the amount they can retain is really cool. I've actually got some photos of some of the dishes they cooked and I take them back and show them to the chefs in my kitchen and say 'This was done by a thirteen-year-old, guys let's step our game up,'” Stone said.
When they're not in the kitchen, Owen and Rahanna both like to play sports. Rahanna learned how to stay focused in the kitchen from playing Tennis while Owen says that Soccer helped him learn how much conditioning helps when cooking in a fast-paced environment.
"I think cooking is a sport because working in a restaurant is a lot of hard work. Both cooking and Tennis have the same thing about making sure you watch all the details and really think everything through," Rahanna said.
“Even when you work in a kitchen you have to be conditioned cause your moving so fast. At the start of the show, most people didn’t get food on the plate for the first couple challenges because no one was used to cooking under the clock but as the season progressed it kind of just became second nature to us,” Owen said.
If Owen wins he plans to buy a storefront to open his own restaurant with the prize money while Rahanna would like to use the prize money to attend culinary school.
The winner will be revealed on the "Top Chef Junior" season 1 finale, Friday, Feb. 2, at 8 p.m. ET.