Fresh off her momentous win on the premiere season of Food Network Star Kids, Seattle eighth-grader Amber Kelley is back in front of the camera, only this time she’s not in a competition. As part of her prize for besting nine other young kid cooks, Amber became the host of her own web series, Kids Menu Makeover, and now that series is live on FoodNetwork.com.
In keeping with her culinary point of view on Food Network Star Kids, Amber made sure the recipes in all three episodes of Kids Menu Makeover were fresh, approachable and easy. She teamed up with famed restaurant chefs Alex Guarnaschelli, Dale Talde and Ariane Duarte to present her take on their beloved intricate dishes, making them not only ideal for kid palates but also adult tastes.
We caught up with Amber on the set of Kids Menu Makeover and chatted about what it’s like for her to host her own web series and work with all-star chefs. Find out what she had to say below and learn her advice to other budding cooks, then watch the other two episodes of Amber’s series here.
How’s life as a Food Network Star Kid?
Amber Kelley: It’s incredible, it’s surreal and it’s delicious. It’s been so much fun so far, and … I’m just so, like, thankful that I get to do this and I get these opportunities and I get to cook with all these amazing chefs. It’s awesome.
What’s the one thing you learned in the competition that you’re going to take into filming your web series, Kids Menu Makeover?
AK: I think the one thing I learned in the competition is have fun and be myself. I always say that, but that’s so true. It’s because that’s the thing that makes people want to watch you is if you’re having fun and if you’re yourself … they’ll get to know you better. If you sound like a robot, people aren’t going to necessarily want to watch you. So, I definitely took all of that feedback, and I’m going to try to put that into my web series.
What’s the one thing you want to teach viewers on Kids Menu Makeover?
AK: I want to teach viewers how much fun cooking is [and] that kids can definitely get in the kitchen and cook — and also that fresh, wholesome foods are delicious. … A lot of people think that “fresh, wholesome” means healthy and vegan, not that vegan is bad, but a lot of people have that in their mind that it’s just disgusting and everything is raw and flavorless. And I really want to prove them wrong and be like, “Actually fresh, wholesome foods are so good.” So, that’s my main goal with the web series.
Was hosting your own show easier or more difficult than you expected?
AK: I think hosting my own show is pretty much what I expected. It’s a lot of work, but it’s so worth it in the end, and I get to have fun; I get to eat good food [and] cook with good chefs. It’s just all-around a good experience, and … I’m doing what I love. It makes it all worth it.
What’s it like to not just learn from all-star chefs, like Alex Guarnaschelli and Dale Talde, but also to teach them a thing or two?
AK: I personally think being able to not even really teach them but just talk to these amazing chefs is intimidating but fun, ’cause, honestly, it’s one of those situations where everything you do you feel like you’re doing wrong ’cause they’re so good, and you’re like, “Well, maybe I’m cutting a mushroom wrong.” But it’s just ’cause they’re so good at what they do and they truly are amazing, and you just want to do the best that you can do and hopefully impress them.
What do you hope the kids watching at home are going to take away from your tips on Kids Menu Makeover?
AK: I think the kids at home should take away the fact that it’s fun. I mean, I’m laughing a lot in there. And I also want them to take home the fact that these foods that I’m making are fresh and wholesome, but they’re so good, and I promise you I am never lying if it’s good. Like, if I genuinely think it’s good I will show it, and I will be, like, shocked and just so happy, and I just want them to know that you can make fresh, wholesome food that’s delicious, and I also want them to get in the kitchen. I mean, come on, it’s what I love to do. But I truly think other kids will love it, too, and so I want to sort of show them what it’s like and get them inspired.
Click the play button on the video above to watch the first episode of Amber’s web series, Kids Menu Makeover, then check out the other two episodes. Plus, hear from Amber about her momentous victory on Food Network Star Kids.