MANDEVILLE- Fontainebleau Junior High student Ella Petitto can slice her way through the kitchen like a seasoned chef.
It's one of the reasons the 13-year-old was chosen to compete on an episode of Chopped Junior, airing on the Food Network next month.
Ella's motivation started as a yearning to help her mom with more. Her fire for food was lit at Culinary Kids in Mandeville, were dozens of kids have tried out for multiple shows. Ella is the second, so far, to make it on-air.
"Food is fun, but for Ella, there's something a little bit for there, for real," said Culinary Kids owner Sherri' Hansen.
When the challenges cooled off at Culinary Kids, Ella's cooking education was elevated to understudy of Corporate Chef Eileen Bennett at Ain't Life Grand Investments.
"I haven't seen anybody quite like her before, she's really something," said Bennett, "I think she's going to be really big time."
Ella says she's most excited about showing off her passion for pleasing palettes.
"There's so many different techniques you can do, there's so many different foods and aspects of cooking," she said.
For the adults watching her bubble up from novice to national, seeing Ella in the spotlight is rewarding.
"We didn't expect for it to come to this level. I've always been one to want to mentor children and people and raise them to the next level. Whatever your journey is in life, I like to support that. And for us to see this happen, it really validates our efforts," said Hansen.
Ella's biggest dream isn't making it onto national television, it's to share her love of food with others, including other kids.
"I do see myself as a chef/chef mentor," she said, "I definitely want to help kids who can't cook because I have a 17-year-old sister who can't cook. She burns Velveeta in the microwave.
As for how all her hard work held up in the pressure-cooker Chopped kitchen, you'll have to tune in to find out.
Ella's episode of Chopped Junior airs Tuesday night, November 8th, which is also election night. The show starts at 7 p.m. CST on The Food Network.