Scarlett Can Really Cook: Get to Know the Rachael Ray's Kids Cook-Off Winner
You've probably never seen an 11-year-old with better knife skills than Scarlett. Self-taught, this little culinarian was inspired by Food Network and the internet to get cooking because she just wasn't getting the kind of food she wanted at home. Now after winning Rachael Ray's Kids Cook-Off, she's gone on to film her own Web series, This Cali Kid Can Cook. But she's not resting on her laurels. She's recently been staging at restaurants in Los Angeles, perfecting her craft before she moves on to her next adventure, which may be culinary school or business school.
FN Dish caught up with Scarlett on the set of her Web series to chat about her cooking inspirations, her favorite dishes to cook and the effect of her winning the series.
Scarlett: It’s been really fun, and I was super-excited and super-nervous the first day, but it really just flew.
Scarlett: Maybe having the judges taste the food, and not knowing that I made it, and talking to them and stuff. But … I loved all of it.
What do you hope the viewers will take away from your series?
Scarlett: Well, I want people to know that the fresher something is, the better it’s going to taste. And so, that’s what I tried to put in here. Kind of, freshest, crispiest lettuces, fresh seafood.
So after the competition, after your Web series, what’s your dream for the future? And what will you do with the $20,000 prize money?
Scarlett: Culinary school is not the biggest thing [for me]. First thing is business school. … I would like to go to culinary school, but if I don’t, that’s perfectly fine with me. But I do definitely want to go to business [school], and then maybe take a couple years of culinary [school]. … The thing I want to do in life, like what my grand [scheme] would be, is owning a couple of restaurants … when I get older and … I want to be full owner … and also … the executive chef.
If you could cook a meal for anyone in the world, who would it be?
Scarlett: I think I already did that. I cooked for Robert Irvine.
Do you have a favorite technique, or a favorite tool that you use in the kitchen?
Scarlett: I love to use a grill pan. That’s one of the things I use a lot, and also, a cast-iron skillet. … And my knife. I love my knife.
Scarlett: I have two chef's knives, a santoku, then a bunch of paring knives and a cleaver.
Rachael and many of the guest judges commented on how you have such great knife skills. How did you learn that? Did you practice a lot?
Scarlett: I love to practice, and this is one thing I practice a lot, so I’m very happy that Rachael and everyone love my knife skills.
Scarlett: I started cooking pretty recently. Probably nine, even.
What’s your earliest memory of getting in the kitchen, or cooking?
Scarlett: Probably Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, because that’s kind of the only time the whole family really cooks together. Because, you know, my family, it’s pot roast that’s not good pot roast.
Have you done anything to change those dinners to make them better?
Scarlett: The last two Thanksgivings and Christmases I basically made everything. … I like the classic turkey, ham, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes. … So I like to stick to that kind of thing.
What was the first dish that you remember cooking?
Scarlett: That’s a good question. Probably we used to do these little pastas, and so it was like, pasta with a little half-marinara, half-cream sauce. Then it had shrimps and scallops in it that we used to put, and a lot of the times, like, squash. That’s probably the earliest memory.
What are some of your favorite dishes to cook? Something that really says you on a plate?
Scarlett: Those lamb chops that I made [in the finale] … . I love making … bulgogi and kimchi. I love doing tacos, and seafood, or fish tacos … and I also like to put a little twist of Korean flair in there, and like tempura fried onions that I did.
Scarlett: I don’t really read a lot of cookbooks, because … I go on FoodNetwork.com a lot … . I don’t really read much cookbooks. … I have this one cookbook that’s all about baking. … My friend got it for me, and [it has] every recipe for every classic, you know, like fruit tarts, macaroons, different types of cakes, how to ice a cake, how to do this correctly, and so I like that.
Where do you usually get your inspiration? Do you tend to browse the Web, or do you go to your farmers market to see what’s in season?
Scarlett: It comes a lot from the Internet, but … if I’m watching Food Network or something, I’m like, “You know what, I want to do something like that.” … And I’m homeschooled, so it’s kind of easier to, like, figure out what I want, just out of the middle of the day, be like, “You know what, I really want to make this, I really do.” Like, if it’s something I already made, or something totally new. And even if we don’t have all the ingredients for it, I’ll try and substitute stuff.
Do you have a favorite dish that you like to eat most of the time?
Scarlett: I love pasta — just all types of pasta. I really, really, really love pasta. Like, I don’t know, I have an addiction or something. Or bread. All types. Like a nice French baguette or … olive bread. … They bake olives into it. I love olives.
Scarlett: I love anything and everything pickled. That’s why I love kimchi so much, because it has a pickled [or fermented] kind of taste. … So, that’s why I really like kimchi.
Do you have a signature dish that you like to make?
Scarlett: It’s not really a signature dish, but a lot of the times we’ll get, like, a big rib eye … . I have these flavored salts that are really nice. Like, I have a rosemary, a chili and a lemon. Sometimes I’ll throw some, like, rosemary salt, put some rosemary in there, maybe some oregano, and kind of just cook that until it gets, you know, nice and crusty on the outside, and medium rare on the inside.
Scarlett: The only really food holidays that we kind of do at our house is, like, Christmas and Thanksgiving. Like … last Fourth of July we stayed home and watched an American movie thing, but that’s kind of it. I did make some barbecue kabobs, but probably Thanksgiving because what we do, we have the turkey and the ham, and we have mac ‘n’ cheese and mashed potatoes, and sweet potatoes, and then we have like a huge platter of roasted vegetable medley. It has cauliflower, broccolini, asparagus, squash, mushrooms, onions. So, that’s good.
I heard from your dad actually that you’ve been staging lately. How did that come about?
Scarlett: So [after] Rachael Ray Kids Cook-Off it kind of started, and there’s this one restaurant called Vintage Enoteca … . It’s a wine bar. It’s really small. They do small plates, and I love it there. The food’s great. So, we asked them if I could come there and stage, which is, like, you know, just kind of work there for a little bit, and, yes, and I’ve been doing that for probably like a month … . And then we went to Redbird and Hutchinson. Hutchinson is really kind of [a] South Asian kind of fusion restaurant, and they have a wood-fired grill. So they use lots of meats … and that’s really good. … I love Redbird. It’s probably one of the best food I’ve ever had there. It’s owned by Neal Fraser, who beat Bobby Flay [and] beat Cat Cora. … He’s pretty popular in L.A., and Redbird is doing really well. I go over there and it’s huge. The kitchens are huge. The restaurant is huge. And so that’s really fun too.
How do the chefs react to having a kid in the kitchen?
Scarlett: I’ve been working the line in restaurants, so that’s, I think they’re cool with it. … It’s great. I love it.
So has winning sunk in yet? I know the last time we spoke you still didn’t believe it. Has it sunk in now?
Scarlett: I mean, kind of filming the Web series kind of helped it sink in a bit. But I don’t know. … It’s kind of weird how you feel, you know? Like, I mean, you know, once in a while I just think about it, and it’s like, "Oh my gosh, this is so crazy." … I don’t know how to explain. Like it’s … it’s on and off.