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This 14-year-old is a celebrity chef, tennis player and actor

Zac Kara is a triple threat

Zac Kara wakes up and whips up a big breakfast – two eggs, sometimes some yogurt, potatoes and oats. It’s fuel he needs for a busy day that includes culinary school and tennis. And on some weekends, he does his YouTube video series Cooking with Zac.

“It’s a lot of stuff going on, but I honestly love it,” Zac, 14, said of his busy lifestyle.

The young celebrity chef and Orlando, Florida, resident prepares his own meals, and he’s pretty good at it. In addition, he’s a competitive tennis player and an actor. His busy lifestyle keeps him grounded and he is continuously building his life to become the best he can be.

Zac has played tennis since he was 4.

“That [tennis] was always my first dream and this cooking also came and took me by surprise, along with acting now. I did some auditions in Toronto and some acting as well. It’s honestly taken me by surprise but I’m really glad it had,” he said.

According to his web page, Zac was a semifinalist in the Final Four of Gordon Ramsay’s Master Chef Junior cooking competition. He also appeared on Master Chef Celebrity Showdown, a reality cooking show that aired on Fox network. In November, he will make his way on the Master Chef Cruise, where he will be a featured cook.

His ambition has gotten great accolades and he said he’s been inspired on this journey.

“I really learned a lot about how sometimes when you fail at something, it’s better to get back up there and continue to keep doing your thing and just to keep going and working harder every day,” Zac said.

The youngest of three siblings, (one sister and one brother) Zac was nominated for a Young Entertainers Award for Best Web Series for Cooking with Zac. He also earned a Top Five placement out of 56 of the finest chefs in Orlando at the Gourmet Soiree. He is currently working on a new YouTube cooking show geared to get teenagers cooking and into the kitchen. He is also working on his first cookbook, Cooking Up Life with Zac.


The Undefeated: How did you get started cooking?

Zac: I actually got inspired by watching the first couple seasons of Master Chef Junior, but before that I had absolutely zero interest in cooking. The only other time I was in the kitchen if I was helping my mom doing homework or my mom would make me help pick off the cilantro leaves and then freeze them. That was the only time I was in the kitchen. But then I started watching Master Chef and I really got inspired. I pretty much set a goal and I got really determined to try to get on the show, and my mom started to teach me how to cook. Eventually, I decided to enroll myself in online culinary school, and I’ve been pretty much teaching myself from there.

What’s your favorite dish to cook?

Zac: I came up with one pretty recently, the pan-seared brondino with a butternut squash puree, end it with mushrooms, canola and blackberry reduction, with glazed carrots and a shaved light carrot, and it’s really delicious.

Going into 2017, people are making all kinds of New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier. As a young chef, what would you suggest for healthy eating?

Zac: It’s really cooking fresh stuff at home with your family. I always have a bunch of fresh vegetables and fruit cut inside the fridge all ready go to. Whenever I get hungry, I can go inside the fridge and snack on them. It’s honestly cooking fresh ingredients. Before going on Master Chef, me and my mom would always use prepackaged spices, but I realized when I get on there there’s not going to be any. It forced me to learn to cook with fresh ingredients and now that’s all we cook with, with fresh stuff every single day.

How were you inspired from this whole journey?

Zac: This whole thing has really made me grow more as a person, because I used to always be extremely shy on camera or just talking to people I would be really shy. It really forced me to grow more as a person and truly opening up to being more.

Was the Master Chef Junior competition tough?

Zac: The competition was pretty tough. They’re throwing new stuff at us every single time, like shucking scallops from their shells, or breaking down fishes, it was pretty stressful. I was really starting to get used to pressure so I felt that really tied into the kitchen and that really helped me.

Was Gordon Ramsay intimidating?

Zac: He’s actually supernice; he’s just an incredible person. Off camera, he’s always cracking jokes and I think he’s been getting a little bit of a bad rep sometimes because he’s an amazing person, he really is, he just wants to help.

“Growing up I’ve always set goals to become a professional tennis player, and it’s had a big influence, especially from my parents because they’ve always helped me … Tennis, now it’s cooking, and it’s also acting too. They’ve been extremely huge supporters every day.

How do tennis and entertainment intertwine for you?

Zac: Honestly, it’s been a really great experience. The cooking has really transferred over to tennis and inside the kitchen as well. A lot of my nerves I get in front of being on the camera have helped me in tennis, because tennis is staying calm and cool under pressure situations. It’s honestly helped me in the kitchen, especially in a cooking competition and I don’t have a lot of time left and let’s say something didn’t work. I really have to stay calm and try to figure something out and make the best plate possible.

Who is your favorite tennis player?

Zac: That’s a tough one. I’ve got so many favorite tennis players. It’s probably have to be Serena Williams and [Roger] Federer. They’re amazing, I love watching them play.

What has the game of tennis taught you so far in life?

Zac: In life, it’s told me that not everything will come to you, that you have to work hard for everything in life, especially you have to have goals. Growing up I’ve always set goals to become a professional tennis player, and it’s had a big influence, especially from my parents because they’ve always helped me. They’ve always pushed me to pursue anything that I want to do. That’s tennis, now it’s cooking, and it’s also acting too. They’ve been extremely huge supporters every day.

Will you continue playing tennis?

Zac: Yes, I am always playing tennis. Even though I’m doing cooking and a bunch of other stuff now, tennis is always my No. 1 goal. I’ve been working out every day, just getting healthy and getting to get back on the pitch at tennis.

As an athlete, a chef, and an actor, how do you have balance?

Zac: For fun, I love to play video games. I still am your 14-year-old boy. I love watching movies with my parents, playing video games. I am pretty much your typical 14-year-old boy when it comes to doing some stuff.

What are you listening to these days?

Zac: Music, I love listening to Coldplay, and then my parents, they influence with some of the older bands like U2 and stuff, I love listening to their music as well.

Where do you see yourself in the next two to five years?

Zac: I hopefully see myself playing a lot of tennis, hopefully start to get on the tour. Also, one of my goals is to have my own cooking show as well, or maybe a food host. I would love to have a huge cookbook, that’s another one of my goals.

Was Cooking with Zac inspired by you or did someone else encourage you?

Zac: After Master Chef, I decided to make a cooking series on my YouTube channel and I also do live on Periscope and I now broadcast. I had an amazing time, sometimes it would go on for an hour, sometimes two hours, it was just showing people how to cook some delicious meals. But, unfortunately, I had to put that on hold just because it was a lot of work and I really wanted to make a little shorter videos. I just made a new series that I’m going to be posting on my YouTube channel called Cooking Up Life with Zac, where it’ll be six recipes from easy, medium, to hard.

What’s been the hardest part of your journey?

Zac: The hardest part of my journey has probably been failure. With tennis with everything, you’re not going to win every time, and there’ve been times we’ve had a bad day, in the kitchen sometimes, in competition, at Master Chef. Especially if I’m creating a new recipe or something doesn’t work, but I like to move forward and improve and to work hard to make a better dish or have a better performance on the tennis court or improve my backhand or whatever the case may be.

Is there anything that frightens you about your journey?

Zac: That’s a good question. I don’t really know, I haven’t thought about what could make me feel afraid along this journey. All I thought about was how to get better, how to continue to look forward, continue to improve. Maybe the one thing would be being busy, not having enough time for family, but I feel like I’ve always made time to have a great time and I’m always enjoying the journey and spending a lot of time with my family.

Kelley Evans is a general editor at The Undefeated. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.