CANARYVILLE — One day, Phillip "Philly" Vazzana wants to welcome you to his very own Bridgeport restaurant, where he'll serve you mini meatballs and a steak topped with sauce made from his family's homemade red wine.
For now, the 9-year-old Canaryville resident will settle for an appearance on "MasterChef Junior," the hit TV show pitting kid cooks against each other and putting them in front of three critical judges, Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich.
The show's third season debuts at 7 p.m. on Jan. 6 on WFLD-TV.
Casey Cora says Vazzana held his own on the show:
"My interest in food started when I was like 5 years old. And three years after that, I started to get interested in cooking and then my mom started to teach me," said Vazzana, a student at Bridgeport's Mark Sheridan Math and Science Academy.
Nudged along by his mom, muralist and Horses of Honor contributing artist Erika Vazzana, Philly auditioned for the part at a Downtown hotel earlier this year by cooking eggs, cutting celery and identifying funky ingredients and herbs.
He was a hit.
Earlier this month, Erika and Philly boarded a flight to Los Angeles for the taping, where the junior gourmet took a shine to Elliot, the tattooed Chicago-based chef who seemed to pay special attention to Philly's cooking station.
The show's producers require contestants to keep quiet about the specifics of the contest and what he cooked until the episodes air on TV, but suffice it to say Philly held his own.
"I was nervous a lot because you had to know a lot of skill, and sometimes it could seem a little hard to remember how you made [food] the first time," he said.
Whatever the outcome of the TV show, Vazzana — active in St. Gabriel's football team, Canaryville Little League baseball and Sheridan's basketball squad — said he wants to continue cooking for his two siblings, which suits Erika and his father, Mark, just fine.
"Once in a while, I drag him into the kitchen, and he helps me. He's my second-hand man. He knows where all the utensils are ... and let's just say I don't mind him unloading the dishwasher," Erika Vazzana said.
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