TORONTO - Daniel Hamilton talks knowledgeably about such chef's techniques as plating, mise en place and the correct way to wield a knife. To listen to him, it's hard to believe he's 11.
The precocious Toronto youngster is the sole Canadian contestant on the new four-episode show "Rachael vs. Guy: Kids Cook-Off," which premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on Food Network Canada.
Daniel joins seven other kids who are mentored by Rachael Ray and Guy Fieri as they compete in a series of tasks and challenges, including a quiz, classroom sessions, learning how to design a menu and a cook-off. The junior chef with the highest overall score wins his or her own web series on FoodNetwork.com.
"It was very exciting and it was really cool getting to meet all the new people who could cook and it was really cool to meet Guy and Rachael," Daniel said after school on his first day of Grade 6.
The eight children were divided into two teams, which were helmed by celebrity chef Ray and Fieri, who hosts "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives."
"Both of them have a classroom where they teach us new culinary techniques: creativity, presentation, getting better at speaking and mise en place, organization and making sure everything was good," Daniel explained.
"Guy taught me some presentation skills for, like, plating, to be creative with it, like stacking stuff on top to make it look like there's more and make it look better," added Daniel, who has his own website and cooking show called "Quite a Bite." His mother edits and posts his videos on YouTube.
Fieri also helped him hone his knife skills.
"I did use knives a lot and I did know how to cut with them, but it was different the way Guy taught me because before I just put the knife up and then just slammed it down ... but now I cut properly the way Guy taught me."
Two of the dishes he made on "Rachael vs. Guy: Kids Cook-Off," which was filmed in July, were super fruit crumble and spring pasta with broccoli and shrimp.
"When you see this show you are not going to believe the skills that these kids have. I'm telling you, you're not going to believe it," said Daniel's mother, Sandra Hamilton, adding that he must have been paying attention when she, his father and grandmother were cooking when he was younger.
"The first time I realized that he could cook, I came in exhausted one day from work. I took a nap on the couch, which is very unusual for me, and before I went to sleep Daniel said, 'Mom, I'm making dinner,'" the Grade 5 teacher said.
"When I got up I was expecting cereal and toast. He had baked salmon and asparagus and eggplant. I was totally shocked. This was when he was nine."
Daniel often makes dinner for her and his 12-year-old brother Shannon. He was about to rustle up meat-filled Asian dumplings for an after-school snack.
For his instructional videos, he experiments with different recipes "and I put my own twist on it."
"If I was making a steak, I'd add barbecue sauce and grate onions and all that stuff. You see me marinating it with soy sauce and other stuff," he said of a recent effort.
To a pasta recipe that his mom has made that includes vinegar, olive oil, cheese and tomatoes, "I thought it would be good to add, like, peppers and egg and avocado, eggplant."
He likes watching the Food Network and goes grocery shopping with his mother to find the ingredients he'll need for recipes.
Daniel admitted to some trepidation about seeing the finished episodes of "Rachael vs. Guy: Kids Cook-Off."
"I kind of don't want to watch myself. I don't want to see myself and then go, 'Oh, I shouldn't have done that.'"
In the series finale, judges don't know that the food in the family-style dinner they're tasting has been made by kids. Guest judges include chef Richard Blais (winner of "Top Chef: All Stars" season 8), chef Duff Goldman ("Ace of Cakes"), Jack Lee, Antonia Lofaso ("Top Chef" season 4, "Cutthroat Kitchen"), Eric Greenspan ("The Next Iron Chef" season 2), Melissa d'Arabian (winner of "The Food Network Star" season 5, "Ten Dollar Dinners"), Jennie Garth ("Beverly Hills, 90210"), Stephanie Scott ("Wreck It Ralph," "A.N.T. Farm") and Marion Ross ("Happy Days").
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