Master Chef Jr. contestant, Malia Brauer, 12, prepares pesto salmon wrapped in phyllo dough at her home in Newhall on Wednesday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Young cook determined to take ‘MasterChef Junior’ crown

While other 12-year-olds in Newhall are stressing over schoolwork, Malia Brauer, 12, has a different set of troubles on her mind.

She has to make absolute, absolute sure the tuna is fresh, the cucumber is sliced, and the broccolini is sautéed in the exact way it needs. These are the things you think about when you’re about to compete on “MasterChef Junior” season seven.

Malia has been tuning in since the show began airing in 2013, and quite literally has been cooking up a dream on the side.

Inspired by her great-grandmother’s recipes, she can whip up an apple pie just as easily as chicken en papillote. Her mother, Deanna, noted this and encouraged her to audition in Los Angeles this year.

The young Newhall resident made the cut in January. Now she is set to compete with her signature dish: a tuna and cucumber sushi roll with garlic & soy sautéed broccolini.

“But it’s OK because the judges are so encouraging,” she said. “And they don’t put you down.”

Not that it wasn’t nerve-wracking, Malia said, because she had to very carefully perform the usual routines that come naturally to her. Measuring water, cutting celery and more took place in a cooking demo at a hotel. But she’s tough.

“I was nervous at the start and at the first episode, because I’m just not sure how the judges were going to feel about my dishes,” she said. “But I’ve always wanted to be on this show, and maybe even the adult version.”

Auditioning and being on the show has been on her dream board for months, and Malia is determined to make her dreams come true.

It doesn’t hurt that cooking has always legitimately brought her joy.

“I like the spices and the creativity,” she said, “and that eventually, you don’t have to follow a recipe all the time once you’re used to it.”

She also plans to follow this in her career.

“I do want to be a chef when I grow up,” she said. “So I can teach other people how to cook, and maybe they’d be inspired to realize it’s not that hard. And maybe they’d also be inspired because maybe after seeing me on ‘MasterChef Junior,’ they would even want to try out themselves.”

So how will Malia do on the show with all her cooking chops? She encourages everyone to follow her journey.

“Tune in to find out,” she said.

The new season of “MasterChef Junior” premieres on FOX March 5.

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