Bucciacchio proved that in a recent episode of Chopped Canada Junior, where the 11-year-old put her cooking skills to the test against four other junior chefs from across the country. “I was so nervous when I walked into the studio and I saw the other kids. I was shaking,” she remembers. “But then I saw the kitchen and I stopped being scared because it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life. It had every single appliance and ingredient you could possibly need in a kitchen.”
Bucciacchio, who describes herself as “small with a cute voice,” was a fierce competitor who made culinary magic with the basket of random ingredients handed to the contestants on the show. The judges, including well-known Canadian celebrity chef, Mark McEwan, were dazzled by the young chef’s culinary skills and mature execution. The judges were especially impressed when she quick-pickled some apple slices in the appetizer round, and transformed a marble loaf cake into flatbread for chicken souvlaki. Despite being crowned the winner of the competition, the soft-spoken girl is a bit bashful about her victory on Chopped Canada Junior. “I don’t really like talking about it at school because I don’t want people to think I’m showing off and I don’t like being the centre of attention,” she explains.
Bucciacchio’s family and friends, on the other hand, are proud to boast about Erica’s success: “She’s my daughter and, of course, I think she’s great and she’s got a lot of talent,” explains Erica’s mother, Grace Vittoria. “It’s cool when other people see it and appreciate it.” Vittoria says she and her husband, Steve Bucciacchio, do their best to encourage their daughter’s passion, getting her all the tools she needs and buying ingredients. “It costs me a lot of money when we go to the grocery store, and we clean up after her a lot,” laughs Vittoria. “Erica doesn’t like to do dishes.”
Bucciacchio’s passion for cooking was born in her grandmothers’ Italian kitchens. As a very young child, she remembers watching her nonni make pizza and pasta from scratch. “I was intrigued to watch them mix ingredients together without a recipe and without measuring and it would end up tasting really good.”
The youngster started experimenting in the kitchen when she was about six years old; nowadays Vittoria says her daughter will often come home from school and get dinner going for the family. But Erica’s favourite thing is baking. She is even trying to persuade her father to set up a website so she can sell her cupcakes online. And she used some of the $5,000 Chopped Canada grand prize money to buy herself a state-of-the-art stand mixer. “It’s pink,” giggles Bucciacchio. The young chef says she’s put the rest of the money in the bank: “I wanna save for culinary school and to open a bakery when I grow up. I want to keep learning and keep cooking.”