This article originally appeared in the Fairfax Times
When I was a kid, I remember watching “American Idol” and dreaming to be on it, but “American Juniors” (the kid’s spinoff to “Idol”) just wasn’t good enough.
Maybe I should have auditioned because by the time I was old enough to be on “Idol,” any self-described talent I had was gone.
Thankfully, 11- year-old, Great Falls, Va. native Matthew Merril has two things going for him that I didn’t. First, he actually has a talent in baking that I probably didn’t with singing. Second, he thought to use Google.
“I originally saw the show on TV and I thought that I could definitely do that and then I just Googled ‘Kids Baking Championship’ auditions and found an audition page,” Matthew said.
That was the beginning of Matthew’s journey to appearing on the Food Network’s second season of “Kids Baking Championship,” which premiers next week on Jan. 4.
“I emailed them and my mom said, ‘you are never going to get on, you’ll never make that show.’ And she was right for two months, but then in two months we got an email saying they wanted to do a Skype interview, a phone interview. A couple of people got eliminated from that step. Then, they asked me to video tape myself baking and then I had another Skype interview,” Matthew explained. “Then, they called me back to go to California for three days to do an in-person interview. On my birthday I learned that I actually made it on the show. That was exciting.”
Arriving in Los Angeles, Matthew enjoyed himself from day one. He loved meeting the other contestants on the show and hanging out with them off the set.
He also enjoyed working with show hosts Valerie Bertinelli and Duff Goldman.
“Learning from Duff and Valerie was super cool because they are some of the best in the country. And I can say that I know famous people now!” he said. “I had a lot of fun because it was a professional set and they had a pantry that had literally everything. Every ingredient I could think of.”
It wasn’t just all fun, however. Although, probably mostly fun. Each episode has a different baking challenge and it proved difficult for Matthew to work under the time limits of the episode.
“It was really surprising. I would say the time was the most difficult part because there was so much pressure on you and you had to get everything on the plate. They also judged on presentation and that’s not one of my strengths,” he said.
Matthew added that another hard part of being on the show was seeing contestants told to go home each week. However, he still remains friends with his competitors, many of who are in their group chat.
“Recently one of the kids got a pug so he’s been putting a lot of pictures in that chat.”
With this much ambition and so much time until he reaches the world of adulthood, Matthew probably has similar goals to his fellow contestants, and maybe similar goals to other 11-year-olds.
“I want to go to college and maybe I’ll go to culinary school after that. I might open a bakery on the side or a restaurant because I like to cook too. I’d like to open a really successful chain of restaurants and also be a lawyer. Be a lawyer by day and a cook by night,” he said.
Nothing is too much at that age.