‘MasterChef Junior’: Andrew Zappley Owes Finale Appearance To Grandma

"She always inspired me to do my best”

Andrew Zappley competes on 'MasterChef Junior'

If swagger counts for anything, Andrew Zappley might just become the next MASTERCHEF JUNIOR.

“A lot of my confidence comes from having experienced being under pressure before — like in a big basketball game,” he says.

“It’s not the same kind of pressure, but still it is pressure.  The adrenaline is there and your heart is beating out of your chest, but I always stay confident.”

But can the seventh grader from West Deptford, New Jersey survive the pressure of Tuesday night’s MASTERCHEF JUNIOR finale?

>>RELATED STORY: Meet Finalist Nathan Odom (Interview)

“Going up against [San Diego middle schooler Nathan Odom] I didn’t know what to expect,” Andrew admits.  “He had won a few challenges and so had I.  So there was definitely a lot more pressure.”

Andrew admits he would probably never have made it into Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen were it not for the love and encouragement of his grandmother, Ruth Harrie.

“I was baking with her between the ages of 2 and 4,” he remembers.

“She would lift me up and I would have this little thing of flour in my hand that I would dump into a mixer…”

“We always [cooked] together and then we would watch TV and eat the lunch that we made.”

“When she died it was really sad but after that happened I kept learning how to cook on my own and I kept getting better and better at it.  I realized I didn’t need a recipe or someone to help me.  I could do it on my own.”

“If it wasn’t for her, I don’t think I would be as good as I am today at cooking.  I don’t even know if I would have been on the show.  She always inspired me to do my best.”

Andrew shared more in an exclusive interview with TheTVPage.com.

What was the most exciting part of the competition leading up to the finale?
That would probably be the last episode with the raspberries.  It was very difficult because I had never made raspberry mousse, but I knew all the elements to it.  When they said my name, that I was going to the finale, it was amazing!

You got quite emotional…
I didn’t expect to be that emotional.  We were pretty sure that it was going to be Nathan, but [the second person] could have been any of us.  We all had good dishes but they all had flaws.  Some had technical difficulties.  But when they said my name, I was overcome with emotion.  I shed tears of joy.

You were shedding tears of joy while Jenna was crying tears of sadness.  She is your friend and Jimmy is your friend.  You want to jump up and celebrate but you don’t want to gloat in front of your friends…
You have to be humble because the people right next to you are going home.  It is emotional to see your friends leave because you have been with them for so long.

It must be a relief to not keep this secret anymore.  How close have you come to giving it away.
I haven’t come close to giving it away, but it is really crazy.  It doesn’t matter how far you make it on the show, it is always a good experience.  But holding the secret is hard.

What will you do next?
I want to have a restaurant when I am older.  But if I can’t do that, if I don’t have the money, I will work for somebody else.  Cooking has always been the dream.

You don’t seem like a recipe follower.  You seem more like a guy who wants to do things on the fly…
I don’t like recipes because I don’t like measurements.  I go by taste and look and texture.  I don’t need a recipe because its like cheating in a way.  If you are good at cooking you shouldn’t have to follow recipes.  Anybody can follow a recipe.  But without the recipe it really makes it unique.

What else are you passionate about besides cooking?
I do play basketball, but that is only during basketball season.  But otherwise I like practicing cutting ingredients.  It sounds strange, but I like using my knives.  I also like going on the internet and looking up pictures of food and watching videos.

Any advice for other young cooks?
You hear your teachers say practice makes perfect and it usually goes in one ear and out the other.  You never really process it.  But if you practice whatever you want to get good at, you will get better.  It does work.

The MASTERCHEF JUNIOR finale airs Tuesday, February 24 on Fox.

Sean Daly

Sean Daly

Editor-In-Chief at TheTVPage.com
Sean Daly is a veteran entertainment journalist.His work has appeared in People, Us Weekly, The Toronto Star and other top publications. He was the west coast TV reporter for The New York Post from 2008 - 2013. Sean is the author of Inside AGT: The Untold Stories of America's Got Talent and Teen Mom Confidential: Secrets and Scandals From MTV's Most Controversial Shows.
Sean Daly