LIVINGSTON, NJ — Television personality Rachael Ray, a celebrated American chef and cookbook author, declared that “as long as [her] name is over the front door,” her audience is going to see “a lot more of” Livingston 10-year-old Matthew Smith after the young chef delighted the viewers of her daytime talk show on Monday afternoon.
Smith, a fourth grader at Harrison Elementary School, was only 8 years old when he competed on FOX network’s “MasterChef Junior” and was celebrated throughout his hometown after the season aired in February 2019. Placing in the top eight out of 24 contestants ages 8 to 13, Smith appeared on the show for several weeks and captured the hearts of the audience with his optimism and enthusiasm.
The young chef has gained thousands of followers on social media since then, and was recently invited to appear as a “Mini Influencer” on “Rachael Ray."
“Today, so much of what we do and wear and the products we use are influenced by social media that there’s a whole category, a whole job description, of people called ‘Influencers,’” Ray said prior to introducing Smith on her show. “It turns out, there are also ‘Mini Influencers.’”
Since Ray had previously announced her intention to make “extraordinary quesadillas” for Monday’s episode, Smith decided to demonstrate his version of “a simple, warm tomato salsa with rainbow chard stems” to supplement her meal.
As he cooked, Smith explained why he loves to cook with “whole foods,” stating that whole foods can be grown in a home garden, are good for the environment, are easy to cook with and are generally healthier than other ingredients.
He also explained why healthy eating is so important to him, and Ray was impressed to hear that Smith aspires to open a farm-to-table restaurant some day.
“I strongly believe that people should learn how to farm for themselves again because then they can learn how to cook in season, eat in season, have fresh food and, overall, live a delicious, healthy and fresh life,” said Smith, who also spoke with Ray about the healthy aspect of eating colorful foods.
Ray could not help but smile and laugh throughout Smith’s cooking demo as he joked about her “amazing culinary team” already having the ingredients cut up for him and providing him with the special “Rachael Ray brand” of olive oil.
She also commented about how comfortable he seemed in front of the cameras and asked whether he ever gets nervous. Specifically, Ray wondered how her guest made it through a competition at such a young age with big names like Gordon Ramsey serving as a mentor and judge.
“Of course you have to be sometimes nervous, but what I kind of felt like—and I think all of us can agree with this here—is that life is so stressful now, and there’s so many different things…whether it’s having to do late hours at work or having to prepare for a big test, life is so stressful,” said Smith. “So things like getting to go on a show or getting to go on a cooking competition—those shouldn’t be stressful, they should be fun.”
In an introductory segment prior to the cooking demo, Smith explained that he has been cooking with “real” tools since he was about 6 or 7 years old, but was pretending with plastic cooking utensils for a long time prior to that.
He stated that his experience on “MasterChef Junior” was “everything [he] could wish for” and that he could not wait to cook with Ray.
“My excitement will probably burst through this room,” he said. “I’m just really excited and so grateful for this opportunity.”
During the show, he told Ray that his positivity stems from his belief that people should do what they love and not care what other people think.
“If you have a dream and you just go for it, anything’s possible,” said Smith, whose advice to other young chefs was to “cook what you love” because “if you love what you're doing and you take the time, you’ll put more love into it.”
By the time Smith finished his demonstration, Ray understood exactly why Smith is considered a “Mini Influencer.”
“Since ‘MasterChef Junior,’ a lot of people follow me on social media,” said Smith. “I love to inspire people, and I’m just so fortunate that people actually want to take the time to look up to me.”
Ray was so inspired by Smith’s enthusiasm that she invited him to visit her own garden when he is “legally out of school” this summer. Smith gladly accepted the invitation, and the two chefs shook on it.
Video courtesy of RachaelRayShow.com.
Click on the headlines below to read more about Smith and his culinary journey: