It’s the Front Burner for Local Young Chef
By Robin Jovanovich
Starting when Kyle Sisitsky was 4, he would stand in the family’s kitchen and watch his visiting grandmother create holiday wonders. “It was her kugel (sweet egg noodle casserole) that first got me interested in cooking,” recalled the now 12-year-old in an interview last week. As soon as he could read, Kyle was devouring cookbooks. “I’m self-taught,” he remarked with a grin.
While baking was Kyle’s first culinary love, he explained that he now whips up all sorts of sweet (he promised to bring us some of his apple pie cupcakes with maple frosting) and savory dishes (pistachio-crusted rack of lamb, for one). “I love taking flavors to new levels,” he said matter-of-factly. He likes shopping at Whole Foods and swears by the fish at June & Ho.
He’s also started his own business, Regatta Gelato. Among his top selections are pumpkin spice gelato, using pumpkins grown in his backyard, and passion fruit sorbet.
“His only challenge is fulfillment, because he gets so many requests,” noted his mother, Aviva, who admits to helping him keep track of those requests, and kitchen detail. “Kyle has a real gift, but he’s got a long way to go as far as cleanup!”
Last year, when Kyle was in fifth grade at Rye Country Day School, the classroom teacher asked all of her students to fill out a questionnaire about their interests and aspirations. At Back to School night, Kyle’s parents learned that his response to “If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?” was “Compete on ‘MasterChef Junior’”.
In an effort to be supportive of their “Renaissance” son, who also excels in math and geography (he won the geography bee), his mother looked into open casting calls, which spanned the country, and decided to register him and show up.
“We went to the open call in Philadelphia, since the New York City call was over our winter break. We thought we would check the box on ‘living your dream’ and move on.”
Thousands of kids showed up to that audition and Kyle was one of the lucky ones who received a call back, which was followed by interviews and more interviews. After meeting every hurdle, last spring he was invited to Los Angeles, where the hit FOX television series is filmed. He, accompanied by a parent, would be there for six weeks, he’d be cooking six days a week, at least ten hours a day to have a chance to make the cast of the show, which was going into its seventh season.
It was a big decision for the Sisitsky family; Kyle is the oldest of three children. They are a close family and they’d be communicating mostly on FaceTime. Kyle would have to finish the school year in classes at the studio, in between trying to master a saffron beurre blanc for lobster.
When Kyle’s parents asked the Rye Country Day Middle School principal for advice, she supported the plan, “There are some things you can’t learn from a textbook.”
A week after arriving at the Los Angeles studio, Kyle made the final cut and is one of the young chefs among the Season 7 cast.
He’s glad to be back at Rye Country Day and with his whole family at their home on the Westchester Country Club grounds.
“The best things to come out of the experience was that I made great friendships and got to cook with top chefs from around the country,” observed Kyle. Working alongside Gordon Ramsay, he learned a few important culinary lessons, notably: “no color, no flavor” and “season, season, season!”
And the key to becoming a great chef? “Not cracking under pressure. We’d be given an hour to complete a challenging dish. One day we cooked for 51 members of a circus!”
On March 12 at 8, tune in to “MasterChef Junior” and get a taste of what this young chef can already bring to the table.
- Photo by Marsha Lebedev Bernstein