Cardiff girl to appear on season premiere of culinary TV show

Last year, Gracie Howard, then 9, won a coveted spot on the culinary competition TV show MasterChef Junior. Unfortunately, she didn't make it to the finals of the contest to compete for the $100,000 grand prize.

This year, the Cardiff girl again competed, besting some 1,000 young contestants to land one of 40 slots on the show. She'll appear on the show's Season 6 premiere at 8 p.m., Friday, March 2, on Fox.

"I'm not a quitter," said Gracie, now 10. After she was cut from last year's show, she said, ”I just figured I'm gonna give it a go again."

Being on the hit TV show allows her to indulge one of her major passions, cooking. Gracie, who attends the Rhoades School in Encinitas, also counts acting, singing, playing volleyball and spending time with her family's three dogs and other pets as among her favorite things to do.

Gracie said she was inspired to take up cooking by her mom and dad, Melissa and Mark Howard, who often cook at home. And she has plenty of ingredients to work with right at home, as the family grows many fruits and vegetables in their back yard.

In fact, spending time in the kitchen whipping up culinary delights is one of the family's great pleasures, said Gracie, and they often dance and play music while cooking.

"We just have the best time," she said. "Maybe someone drops an egg, who cares? Just dance all over it."

Last year, for MasterChef Junior, Gracie cooked up a three-course meal of stuffed chicken breasts, mashed potatoes and spinach salad, and she had 30 minutes to complete the entire meal.

"I couldn't have done that," admitted her mom.

But Gracie was mum about what she cooked for the new season of MasterChef Junior, because she's not allowed to give away any details, including how she fared with the three celebrity judges, until after the show's air date.

"You have to watch it to find out, sorry," she said.

She was able to say that she loved the experience of staying in a hotel in Los Angeles for the taping of the show, which took about two weeks.

"It was fun but it was definitely stressful," she said.

She especially loved the kitchen on the set of the show.

"I absolutely love the place, it's so magical," Gracie said. "I want to go back there again, I wish that was my kitchen."

The junior version of the show features kids aged 8 through 13. Last year, Gracie was the youngest contestant, said her mom.

One of the best things about being involved with the show, said Melissa, was that Gracie made a lot of good friends, relationships that should be long-lasting.

"I'm really happy and proud of her. She put a lot of effort and hard work into this. This type of experience brings about a lot of life lessons and possibilities," said Melissa.

"She just doesn't give up. She's a go-getter," Melissa said.

One of Gracie's projects is a bakery stand that she sets up at various places - such as at her dad's office and by neighbors' homes - during the summer. Gracie sells her bakery creations and gives some of the proceeds to charity.

"She's a sweet little girl with a loving, giving heart," Melissa said.

While Gracie hasn't decided for sure what she wants to do when she grows up, she does have a short list of the top possibilities, and they include chef, actor, singer and animal shelter volunteer.

After thinking a moment, Gracie refined her answer even further.

"I actually want to be the best person I can be," she said.