Here's What 12-Year-Old MasterChef Junior Winner Addison Osta Smith Is Up to Now
Addison Osta Smith has yet to hit her 13th birthday—but if you tried her culinary creations, you’d never know it.
The MasterChef Junior season 4 winner won the competition in January of last year, and hasn’t slowed down since. “I’ve been doing a lot of things that I wouldn’t normally have done if I hadn’t been introduced so early into the cooking world,” she tells PEOPLE. “It’s really been a fun experience because cooking is one of my favorite things to do. It’s my passion.”
Since then, she’s had appearances on The Late Late Show with James Corden, the now-cancelled FABLife (where she met Chrissy Teigen) and The Steve Harvey Show. She showed off her Gordon Ramsay-approved moves in the kitchen on the MasterChef cruise last November with other former contestants (both junior and adult.)
Now, she has plans to start a YouTube channel — and will be making a return to MasterChef Juniorfor the Extra Serving special episode.
And though her love of cooking is bringing her lots of attention, it all started the way most kids learn how to cook: In the kitchen with her mom and dad.
“My parents were in the kitchen all the time,” she says. “And even if it was just making waffles or something super simple, I wanted to help, and I wanted to be in the kitchen with them.”
“From there it just really escalated to asking to cook at different times, and learning to cook. It was one of my activities and hobbies, something I did all the time,” she says. Her favorite dishes to make include arroz con leche (a coconut and cinnamon-based dessert), three cheese ravioli with pesto and all sorts of homemade pizzas.
After her mom saw an ad for an open call for MasterChef Junior in Chicago, she knew her daughter would be interested. Osta Smith and her father drove into the city for the audition, and since then, life hasn’t really stopped.
“It still it kind of setting in,” she says. “It’s just completely surreal what happened from just seeing an advertisement for an open call.”
She filmed the show when she was just 9 years old, and it aired when she was 10, making her the youngest-ever MasterChef Junior winner, and the first female to take the top prize, too — the significance of which isn’t lost on her, despite her young age.
“Being the first female winner is really amazing,” says Smith. “All the past winners have been guys. Especially in today’s time, when there’s a lot of different battles going on for women’s rights, I think it’s super important to have female role models, and there’s so many strong women to look up to in the cooking world. Just because you’re a different sex, you can do the same things.”
And though her season wrapped nearly two years ago, Osta Smith is still hungry to get in front of the camera again. She also loves to act, and hopes to have more opportunities to share her love of food with audiences at home.
“I love being in front of an audience, and teaching people,” she says.
WATCH: MasterChef Junior Contestants Teach Us How to Cook
A few people who are likely interested in Osta Smith’s words of wisdom? The contestants on the fifth season of the show, whichis currently on air. The key, she says, is confidence in your cooking — even if you’re dealing with the unknown, like she was during
“[During a challenge] I had no idea if it was going to taste good, I had no idea if it was going to work. It was my first time using those ingredients,” she says.
“Do exactly what you know how to do, but do it ten times better,” she says. “If you stick to exactly what you know how to do and don’t really step outside your comfort zone, you’re not going to learn as much as you can and you’re not going to get as much out of the experience.”
MasterChef Junior: An Extra Serving airs tonight at 9 p.m. EST on FOX.