If you can stand the heat, stay in the kitchen: Interview with ‘Top Chef Junior’ finalist Rahanna Bisseret Martinez

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Miles Brown/File

On a sunny April afternoon, Rahanna Bisseret Martinez walked into The Daily Californian office holding her chef’s coat — which had her name embroidered on it — and her mother followed closely behind her. Fourteen-year-old Martinez, an Oakland native, was one of the finalists on the television show “Top Chef Junior.” She came in second place on the show’s debut season, just shy of winning the ultimate $50,000 prize.

That small detail, however, nowhere near stops Rahanna from chasing her dreams. Conversing with eloquence and poise, Martinez had an air of confidence many young teenagers don’t find until well into their high school careers. This is, perhaps, due to her journey competing on the television cooking show.

“Cooking on the show definitely was really fun, because there’s constant inspiration and you’re surrounded by food every day,” Martinez expressed. “At home, it’s more of a relaxed environment, which is also fun.”

“Cooking on the show definitely was really fun, because there’s constant inspiration and you’re surrounded by food every day.”

— Rahanna Bisseret Martinez

The young chef quickly noticed the stark contrast between cooking at home and preparing food for the esteemed judges on national television.

“I’ve always had an interest in fine dining cuisine and would make that at home, but the competition was a lot different because I was being judged on it,” Martinez said.

In fact, some of the young chef’s toughest moments on the show included walking into the judge’s room. Yet, like a dedicated learner searching for more knowledge, Martinez took the judges’ critiques as constructive criticism to build upon for her future dishes.

While standing in front of the judges was an intimidating experience, Martinez also credits the judges and guest judges as being some of her biggest supporters. She was, however, quick to say that her family members were, and continue to be, her biggest supporters.

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With her support system backing her, and the invaluable experience of getting advice from top professionals in the cooking industry, the young chef is steadfast in pursuing her dreams — and shows no signs of slowing down. She has gotten the chance to do pop-ups at various stores, including local cupcake bakery Cupcakin’ Bake Shop, and has gotten to teach young children about the different facets of cooking and give them advice on becoming chefs.

“You can’t really measure a love for something you enjoy so much,” Martinez said about her zeal for food.

“You can’t really measure a love for something you enjoy so much.”

— Rahanna Bisseret Martinez

It’ll be easy to separate Martinez from a crowd with her contagiously bright smile and unmeasurable love for cooking. The cooking prodigy can most definitely stand the heat and will continue to cook up a storm in the kitchen.

Avanti Mehrotra is the blog editor. Contact Avanti Mehrotra at [email protected].