Memorable Moments from the Premiere Season of Food Network Star Kids

Relive top challenges and unforgettable events from this pintsize competition with budding culinary talent.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

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Photo By: Eddy Chen , Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen , Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen , Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen , Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen , Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen , Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

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Finale: 3 Dreams of Stardom, 1 Future Star Kid

Liam, Amber and Isaiah have made it to the final week of the competition, and they're just one challenge away from potentially claiming the title of Food Network Star Kid. They visit a local Whole Foods to shop for what Tia tells them will be "the most-important meal of your life," and while picking up groceries, they also film a sizzle reel for their would-be web series. 

Trouble Toasting

"There's no Middle Eastern cook like me around," Liam tells the judges as he's prepping his Mediterranean-turned-Middle Eastern offerings of calamari, eggplant and cabbage. Considering the feedback from the mentors in recent weeks, he says that he's "going to try to tone it down" when it comes to his usually liberal use of bold spices. He opts for just a few pinches of cumin in his toasted pine nuts, though they become perhaps too toasted after he forgets them on the stove. 

Master of Mash-Ups

"I'm showing my creativity, I'm showing my skills and I'm showing what I do best," Isaiah explains of his fusion of flavors from countries around the world in his two-part offering of a lamb chop appetizer and duck breast entree. Despite his plan to include carrots, he forgets them on his station while plating, but the judges don't seem to miss them.

Newfangled Lasagna

A favorite among her family, Amber's zucchini-layered lasagna recipe calls for the vegetable instead of the usual noodles, and she says confidently, "This is a very impressive dish." The judges notice she's also prepping a salad, and they're concerned that it's too rudimentary. "She really has to make this a wow factor because you're serving us salad in the finale," Tia says. 

Mixed Results

After dropping a few puns into his sizzle, Liam gets the judges and guest Tregaye Fraser smiling, and sure enough, they are pleased with both his vibrant personality and his offerings — kind of, that is. "It would have been the perfect salad without that little guy," Tregaye tells him of "a burnt pine nut" in his cabbage-cucumber dish.  

A Lasagna Pro with Salad Woes

Just as the mentors were worried about before, Amber's salad indeed proves to be "very average for, like, the finale," according to Tregaye. Nevertheless, her lasagna is a hit, and Donal praises her, saying, "This is what a lasagna should taste like." Her on-camera work is successful as well, so much so that Donal says, "You lit up that screen."

Top Chops, Literally

Isaiah's appetizer of Lamb Chops with Scallop Ceviche is simply "the best dish that I had in this entire competition," Tia declares. Donal, too, is wowed by Isaiah's abilities and says, "He is hands down the best cook in the competition." When it comes to Isaiah's sizzle reel, though, his delivery is a concern. "There's a speed with you, Isaiah, that I know you want so badly to tell me how good your food is," Donal explains to him, noting Isiah's familiar struggles with talking on camera.

Meet the First Food Network Star Kid

Amber, Isaiah and Liam all put their hearts into not only this week's finale challenge, but also the past five weeks of face-offs. In the end, though, it's Amber who earns the win. "This is one of the best moments of my life, if not the best," Amber notes, downright thrilled with her title.

Episode 5: Pitching the Panel

It's one thing to cook quality dishes, but it's another to sell that food to fans with a winning personality, which is what the final four kids must do in front of VIPs, including actor Neel Sethi and comedian Loni Love. Each competitor describes two potential dishes, then the panel members pick the dish they'd like to eat and make requests for updating it.

Tacos 2.0

After the judges select fish tacos from Isaiah's menu, he gets to work on the dish, incorporating their feedback to add avocado and sour cream to the plate. "I can do this in my sleep," he says, confident in his ability to execute.

A Cold Case of Hot Fries

Though Lexi says of her steak sandwich that the "hardest part of cooking this dish is probably the steak," it's her french fries that prove to be especially worrisome. In the final few minutes of the allotted cook time, she somehow misplaces the cooked spuds, announcing, "I seriously need help, like, right now." Luckily for Lexi, Tia spots them in the oven. "Yes!" a very relieved Lexi says.

Cheese Woes

When the judges pick sliders from Liam's menu, he suggests adding feta to round out the meal, and they're pleased with the idea. But he forgets that key ingredient while cooking, only to remember it the moment he begins his presentation. "Oh, my God! I forgot feta," Liam proclaims, stunned by his own realization. Donal is impressed with the zatar-spiced bacon Liam layers on top, but Neel admits, "I like cheeseburgers, and there's no feta." 

A Third of a Delivery

Amber sets out to make steak-filled spring rolls, per the panel's request, but the dish doesn't come together as she plans. "I was told to make three sauces. I only had time to make two, and one of them tasted like crap, so I have one sauce. And my spring rolls are falling apart on the plate," an emotional Amber explains at the end of cooking. 

Successful Seafood

"Your fried fish is cooked to perfection," a pleased Tia tells Isaiah. He's nestled the seafood atop a black bean sauce inside his taco, which he dressed with avocado-laced cream. His presentation, too, is successful, and Tia is pleased with his explanation of fries as his side dish. "That represents international mash-up very well," she notes.

Missing the Mark

For Lexi, the star of her plate — the steak — is a success, Donal notes, but its supporting elements, like the bread and caramelized onions, aren't as popular among the judges. "With the onions, I wanted more caramelization," Donal tells her.

Mixed Feedback

Donal notes his displeasure over the inconsistency in the wrappers around Amber's spring rolls, but Tia nevertheless declares the offering "a great balanced dish." Still, though, she can't forgive the missing sauces. "This all went so perfectly well," Tia tells Amber, "but you forgot to give us the two [other] sauces. We will have to take it into consideration." 

The Penultimate Elimination

After Isaiah earns top honors this week, Liam, Lexi and Amber await the announcement of who will advance to next week's finale. Ultimately 9-year-old Lexi says goodbye to the competition in an emotional exit. "I really wanted to be the first Food Network Star Kid so badly," she says. "But I think my family back home and friends are still proud of me for making it this far." 

Week 4: Embracing Mystery

Donal tells the finalists, "A Food Network Star sometimes gets thrown into situations where you have to think on your feet." And indeed he and Tia make sure that's the case when the first challenge tasks the kids with sampling a mystery ingredient on the spot and talking about it for a minute. "Be ready for anything," he advises them.

Bring On the Cheese

Admittedly, Lexi isn't a fan of blue cheese — she calls it "just mold" — but when she comes face to face with Stilton, a kind of blue cheese, she's quick to embrace the item and takes a bite. "Mmm, this tastes really good," she declares, before mentioning how she'd utilize the cheese in a recipe of her own. She wins over Tia with her strong description, as the judge tells Lexi, "You seemed like you were having loads of fun."

A Fishy Taste Test

For Tyra, the worst occurs when she is faced with a table full of anchovies. She manages to sample an anchovy, but she can hardly stand it and is forced to spit it out, wasting precious time that could have been spent describing the flavor. "So embarrassing. So embarrassing," she admits.

Making the Best of It

The surprises continue into the second challenge, when each finalist must work with yet another unknown ingredient, this time highlighting it in a dish that they'll later describe to the judges. Liam isn't shy about his distaste for his ingredient, okra, but he embraces it in a new take on mujadara, which brings together cumin-scented rice, lentils and the pickled okra. "I would definitely order this on a menu," says Tia, pleased with his offering. "You come from a place of authority, and that is really exciting to listen to," Donal notes of Liam's equally stellar presentation.

Mixed Results

"You're talking to us, and we can see that you are passionate about what you do," Donal tells Isaiah after the finalist introduces his steak sandwich. The dish is so successful that Tia takes to dancing in her chair, and Donal commends him on well-executed beef. But Donal adds that Isaiah's mystery ingredient could have been stronger: "The one thing I am struggling with is the use of yuzu. I think I just wanted it to be more apparent, especially in that mashed potato-onion spread."

Meat Missteps

When Lexi forgets to grease the grill pan before adding her burgers, she resorts to finishing the patties in the oven, but unfortunately they don't cook quickly enough there. She ends up serving meat that's undercooked according to the judges, who note that they don't discern much of her ingredient of woodear mushrooms. "I think this should have been an ingredient that you would have easily encompassed in your dish," Donal tells Lexi.  

Heat Overload

Like Lexi, Tyra delivers a lackluster dish, a too-spicy chicken breast that forces Tia to sip water. Tyra's presentation is full of her signature "charm," as Donal notes, but the judge adds that she doesn't call attention to her ingredient, black garlic, which is a main point of the challenge. She joins Lexi in the bottom this week.

On a Roll

Thrilled to be working with seaweed given her familiarity with the ingredient, Amber sets off to make okonomiyaki, a Japanese-style pancake, inspired by her grandmother's recipe. "Let's do this!" she says confidently. And indeed she has every right to be, because the mentors are wowed by her dish as well as her performance; Tia notes, "I felt like you were authentic." Ultimately Amber lands a top spot this week, alongside Liam. 

An Emotional Farewell

"I actually really don't want to do this," Donal says simply of having to eliminate either Lexi or Tyra this week. Both girls are anxious as they await the news, but ultimately it's Tyra who's sent home. "I still made my mom proud. I made myself proud. I made my family proud," Tyra reflects at the end of her journey. 

Episode 3: Better Together, Maybe

Communication is the name of the game for the finalists this week, both in terms of camera work and cooking. Not only will the kids work in teams of two to host a live-stream demo, but they also have to execute complementary flavors in the Sunday supper-style dishes they create. "I want to work in teams really badly 'cause these are amazing chefs," Lexi explains. "And I think they'll elevate my skills to make them even better."

High-Stress Moments

With just minutes left to cook, Lexi realizes that she's started prep work on a meringue instead of the necessary whipped cream to accompany her brigadeiros. After she decides to ditch the original plan, her teammate, Sal, helps her make a mascarpone-style whip with espresso powder — but he's a bit heavy-handed with the espresso. "Not measuring, I'm just adding stuff in with a lot of espresso powder, maybe a little too much," Sal admits. 

Solid Work

Tyra and Amber are quite confident in their dishes — lamb chops and couscous, respectively — and they're not shy about showing it. They break out an impromptu handshake once cooking has ended, and later Tyra says, "I think we got this in the bag."

Breakthroughs and Support Systems

After struggling in the past to convey his true personality, Isaiah is set on being himself during the live stream — and indeed he delivers. "This is a new side of Isaiah we're seeing," Donal notes as he watches Isaiah monitor the screen, answer questions and prep his beef. Isaiah even comes to the rescue of his partner, Liam, when he struggles with the questions. "Isaiah, you stepped in and helped him out. Good teamwork," guest judge Gabriel Conte tells him.

Stealing the Spotlight

"I just felt like it was the Salvatore Live Stream, as opposed to teamwork," Tia explains to a disappointed Salvatore. He spends more than three of the allotted four minutes on his own pesto prep, so Lexi is forced to make do with only seconds left in the live stream. Though she manages to have fun and answer questions in her demo, Sal still tries to hog the camera. Salvatore's pasta is also cause for concern, as it's severely undercooked, according to the judges, although Tia notes that "it is exploding with flavor." 

Struggling to Keep Up

It doesn't take long for Amber and Tyra to establish a natural rapport during their demo, but unfortunately it doesn't last. They end the live stream with a frustrated audience after Tyra struggles to monitor the questions. When it comes to their dishes, though, both Amber and Tyra have strong showings, especially Amber, whose quinoa salad is a hit with the judges.

Pure Relief

Both Amber and Isaiah have wowed the panel with their dishes and proved their growth on camera this week, so much so that they earn the top spots. They're deemed safe from elimination, as are Lexi and Tyra.

An Emotional Goodbye

Just like Sal, Liam struggled with his presentation and dish this week, serving the judges rosewater-laced fried funnel cakes that were "a little perfume-y," Tia said. Ultimately, though, Liam's spared from elimination, while Sal says goodbye to the competition. "I'm feeling devastated," Sal says simply. "One day I will have my own show, and it will blow everyone away."

Episode 2: Bringing the Creativity

"To be a Food Network Star, you must always have a creative take on the food that defines your culinary personality," Donal tells the remaining seven hopefuls at the start of Week 2. To challenge the kids' kitchen creativity, he and Tia task them with dressing up brunch — and there's not just one twist but two. Not only do the finalists have to let freshly squeezed orange juice shine in their recipes, but they also must serve one of their two dishes in an actual orange. Luckily for them, the mentors add 30 extra minutes to the clock after doling out that unforeseen second obstacle.

Familiar Foods

Just like last week, Amber once again brings salmon, goat cheese and salad to the plate, and the mentors aren't pleased with the repetition. Similarly, her presentation once again "seemed very rehearsed," Tia notes, and Amber herself admits the mistake. "I start going into robot mode," she says of speaking to the mentors and guest judge Elise Strachan of My Cupcake Addiction.

Important Save

Thanks to her quick thinking, Tyra manages to rescue her pot of grits when she notices they aren't coming together as they should during the cooking part of the challenge. "The grits will cook evenly in a bigger pot," she explains, opting to move the mixture to a larger pan. The judges appreciate her effort, and Tia says that Tyra's performance on the Food Network Star Kids Morning Show is "very authentic." She's deemed one of the top-two finalists this week, alongside Liam.

Breaking It Down

True to her natural charisma, Lexi doesn't hold back from dancing in the kitchen as she's presenting her combo muffin-fruit salad offering to the panel. Guest judge Elise is pleased that Lexi was quick to take a bite of her muffin, which Elise deems "one of the nicest, moistest, fluffiest and most-flavorsome muffins" she's ever had. However, Tia notes that the necessary orange flavor is hard to discern in Lexi's dishes. 

Making Missteps

Sammy knew he wanted to serve fried eggs with his steak, but after a few eggs broke in the pan, he passed on the addition and simply served sliced steak with a side drink. Ultimately, though, that decision cost him, as the judges found his dish to be too unlike a typical brunch offering. His presentation, too, was lacking, as he started the segment reserved and quiet. "It's not the Sammy that I know," Amber notes of her fellow finalist.

The Same Struggles

There's no question that Salvatore brings the humor in his presentation, and Tia commends him on being himself in his speech. But he's talking fast, and he once again struggles to properly cook a potato, much to the mentors' disappointment. Ultimately Salvatore lands among the bottom-three finalists this week with Sammy and Amber.

A Heartfelt Goodbye

"It left us very confused about who you are," Tia explains to Sammy of his reserved-then-not personality during the morning show segment. After two weeks in the competition, Sammy says goodbye to the mentors and his fellow finalists. "It's tough to lose, but I'm only 11. I have plenty more competitions to do and plenty more cooking to do," notes Sammy before going home.

Episode 1: Embracing the Spotlight

Mentors Donal and Tia waste no time in tasking the kids with their first challenge. It's up to these young competitors to pitch themselves and their culinary points of view in live 30-second introductions, right in the spotlight of the kitchen. "I am totally feeling the pressure," 9-year-old Gracie says. "It's live. You mess up? No redos. That really stinks."

A Strong Start

Though Liam forgets to detail the intricacies of shakshuka, which he mentions in his speech, overall the mentors are pleased with his performance. Tia tells him, "As soon as you got in that spotlight, you look comfortable."

Adorable Stumble

"Worst nightmare ever," Sydnie admits of what happened when she took the spotlight. This 9-year-old started off with a strong opening, detailing baking biscotti with her grandma, but soon she simply stopped talking. "My mind is blanking," she admits, but later she tells Donal and Tia that she recognizes her mistake. "I think that I can improve," she says.

Mission: Snap Tips

The challenges continue for the Star Kid hopefuls when Tia and Donal ask them to not just prepare next-level dishes, but also film quick video tips for Snapchat.

Herb Snafu

Gracie had mentioned lasagna pinwheels in her spotlight introduction, and for the first cooking challenge, she sets off to make that very dish. But things go awry when she dumps the whole container of dried oregano into her tomato sauce. "I don't even have time to taste my sauce, so I'm just hoping I get the seasoning right," she says afterward. But the mentors discern the herb's overwhelming flavor in her lasagna, and Tia notes that the oregano is "incredibly bitter."

Bringing the Flavor

Though Isaiah continues to struggle with his presentations — he forgets to introduce himself and flash a smile in his Snap — his dish of Pesto Alfredo with Crab Meatballs and Shrimp is a standout success. "You know how to cook," Tia declares to Isaiah. Ultimately his dish and Liam's rice-style cauliflower offering are deemed the best of the day.

Making Strides

In the spotlight challenge, Amber struggled and came off "a little rehearsed," according to mentor Donal, but in her Snap video, she appears more at ease. "It didn't seem rehearsed at all," Tia notes. Amber's salad, however, "seems a little simple," Tia says, though the mentors note that the flavors work.

A Snapchat Success Story

"You are a charmer, Sammy. That was a really fun Snap," Donal says to the 11-year-old after watching his video tip. Not only does Sammy offer strong tips on shopping for fish, but he also brings the humor. Sammy's video is so strong that he earns the challenge win.

A Triple Elimination Brings Tears

With half of the finalists deemed safe, five face potential elimination. Ultimately, though, it's Gracie, Sydnie and 11-year-old Nicholas who say goodbye. "Even though I didn't win, I feel super confident," Nicholas says.

Want More Food Network Star Kids?

Check out Food Network's official Star Kids headquarters for more insider coverage of the pintsize competition, plus exclusive mentor interviews, behind-the-scenes photos and kid-focused recipes.

More: Food Network Star Kids

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