Food Network’s ‘Chopped Junior’ Finalist Talks Passion for Culinary Arts

Teen has already staked his claim as a chef to be reckoned with

Bryce Taylor Chopped Junior
Bryce Taylor, left, has been featured as a teen chef on “Chopped Junior.” (Image: Twitter)

Bryce Taylor is not your average 8th grader. Sure, he’s 13 years old and excited about selecting high schools soon, but he’s already thinking about a high-powered career in the culinary arts. To that end, he’s hoping to be accepted at a high school with a strong culinary or technology curriculum.

But, this is not some pipe dream for Taylor. He plays full out and is living his passion with a vengeance. How’s that? He’s already a national icon: He was a finalist on Food Network’s ‘Chopped Junior’ and knows his way around the kitchen better than most adults.

He entered Kindergarten at 4 years old and his extraordinary academic performance in Catholic primary school paved the way for early success. Being a year younger than his peers of the same grade subsequently resulted in Bryce being the youngest student at every grade level. However, Bryce has always made his presence known by exuding a natural sense of maturity far beyond his young peers.

Bryce has always been a very well-read and articulate child, with the innate ability to lead. He is naturally curious and loves to solve problems. When called upon by school faculty to mentor younger peers academically or in resolving conflict, Bryce is always ready to assist.

When not in school, Bryce loves to cook, enjoys drawing and writing short stories. He’s always had a flair for the creative, from his love of jazz to his intricate culinary creations. Self-driven and motivated to succeed, Bryce is poised to achieve whatever he sets his mind to.

Recently, he was selected for an on-camera audition and was chosen for the position of Student News Reporter with Baltimore City Public Schools Student Media Team. In this role, Bryce will create and report on all things culinary and hospitality, as well as art and education, occurring at his school, surrounding community and within greater Baltimore.

Bryce is also a member of the Cross Country Middle School Culinary Club.

BlackEnteprise.com caught up with the young chef to discuss his passion for culinary arts and beyond.

BlackEnterprise.com: At what age did you begin cooking? Did you begin cooking with your mother, grandmother or someone else?

Chef Bryce: I started cooking with my mother at the age of 5. She taught me the basics and from there my passion for cooking began to grow. I found myself wanting to cook even when she wasn’t in the kitchen. Clearly, she wasn’t having that! I honestly didn’t care what I was preparing or prepping for her to prepare, as long as I could be in the kitchen watching and participating, I was happy.

What inspired your interest in the culinary arts?

In addition to watching my mother cook, I started watching the Food Network on my own. This was the turning point when I was no longer interested in just making simple pan-grilled cheese sandwiches and was more interested in marinating chicken, preparing grilled salmon entrees and making my signature mushroom risotto. Not only did I want to cook, I now had the desire to create and saw food as an art form. Watching the skilled and professional chefs on television prepare a variety of cuisines and fusion dishes using different methods of cooking was very intriguing to me. I almost instantly wanted to learn more and asked my mother to enroll me in cooking classes to sharpen my skills and learn new techniques.

What’s been your biggest challenge in the kitchen?

Cooking and competing in the Chopped Junior kitchen with my peers has been the biggest culinary challenge to date. I have never cooked with more than one person in the kitchen, be it my mother or my friend Chef Eric Yeager of Stratford University. In preparing a dish at home or in class, I know exactly what I am going to prepare and the ingredients that I am going to use. On Chopped Junior, you are given a mystery basket of ingredients. The challenge is for you to prepare a dish with all of the mystery ingredients. The dish will then be judged based on Presentation, Creativity and Taste.

I’ve watched you and you’re a fierce competitor with tremendous skill. What’s your motivation when you’re down to the wire and things start to get tough?

I am self-motivated and have a strong will and desire to achieve greatness. I don’t let anything hinder me or get in my way, not even a nosebleed. I was able to forward-think, project, plan and execute what I was going to prepare for the judges on a moments notice. Honestly, I surprised myself with the level of composure and poise that I was able to maintain and demonstrate under time restraints and the pressure to get the job done in the amount of time we are allowed. I was in ‘my zone” and I am not easily distracted and taken off tasks.

Do you have a favorite ingredient you like to work with? Least favorite?

Salt and Pepper! These are key in almost any and every dish that you prepare. My least favorite ingredient is Cinnamon. I don’t like the taste of it and haven’t used it in any dish that I have prepared thus far.

How do you handle constructive criticism from judges, teachers?

I view constructive criticism as necessary to understand what can be improved upon and the opportunity to learn from others in my craft who have had more experience and knowledge than me. I am still learning and growing, so any feedback that helps me advance and develop is always positive in my book.

What’s the one thing you’d want people to know about your culinary journey, what would it be?

I strive for individuality and creativity. I am a food-artist and a perfectionist with the skill and drive to produce tasteful works of art. My mom purchases my ingredients and allows me to experiment in the kitchen, “The Lab” as I call it.

Do you have an ultimate goal in the culinary/hospitality industry?

My goal is to become a World-Renowned Chef. Whenever there is a local cooking class or event, I am there front and center. I am always searching for new recipe ideas and reading food magazines for inspiration. My hobby has evolved into what I believe to be, a very bright future for myself in the culinary world.

What’s your advice for other, young aspiring chefs?

The advice that I would give to any young aspiring chef is to never stop pursing your dreams and always work to build and improve upon your technique while staying true to your own personal style. Individuality is what will set you apart from everyone else. There are a lot of great chefs in the world but there is only one you.

Do you have other friends who aspire to be chefs, or are you kind of a “lone wolf?”

I am the Lone Wolf! I am the only one of my friends who enjoys cooking. My friends and I were talking about what we wanted for Christmas, and I am the only one who wants a gift card from Williams-Sonoma…LOL. Some kids play sports; I cook.

You can keep up with Bryce and his zest for cooking by following him on Facebook and Instagram.

Karima Mariama-Arthur, Esq. is the founder and CEO of WordSmithRapport, an international consulting firm specializing in professional development. Follow her on Twitter: @WSRapport, and visit her website, WordSmithRapport.com.