Cooking is a staple for every household globally. And as many of us have figured, it’s pretty difficult! But some chefs make it seem easy. Among the elite is Gordon Ramsay, and it’s no surprise that many of the young chefs under his tutelage in MasterChef Junior will end up making successful careers for themselves as well.
But what made Ariana Feygin’s story interesting to me wasn’t simply that she was a finalist on MasterChef Junior and cooks exquisite private dinners at the age of 14. Most of us dream of working a fruitful career to be able to one day donate $200,000 to charity. Ariana has already done it. I’ve come to learn that the cause of pediatric cancer is one that means much to her and had the pleasure of learning more about how she’s been able to execute such a feat.
Steven: Who are you at this point in your career?
Ariana: I’m 14, was formerly a contestant of Season 6 of MasterChef Junior, judged by Gordon Ramsay and others. Cooking is something I’ve always loved because of the creativity that it allows me to employ to create my dishes; and from this love for cooking, I started my own company, Ariana’s Kitchen. More recently, I’ve gotten more involved in public speaking and philanthropy. So far, I’ve raised over $200,000 for charity donating part of the revenue I generate through my cooking.
Steven: I’m curious about what kind of causes you care a lot about. Can you also tell me about how you came to be interested in the causes you donate to nowadays?
Ariana: My grandfather from my mother’s side died of cancer and I was never able to meet him. We never really got to interact at all and this is something that pains me. This personal experience is why I’m passionate about raising money for organizations combating cancer. I’m particularly passionate about fundraising for organizations targeting pediatric cancer. But besides this, I also see supporting organizations that help other young people as a natural fit.
Steven: You mentioned you were getting into public speaking; I certainly was nowhere near that arena when I was 14. What do you like speaking about?
Ariana: I started speaking about food and where it is going. But more recently, I also like speaking about philanthropy and aim to inspire other kids and show that they are more than capable of doing big things. I recently spoke to over 8,000 kids about this and I hope to continue doing so and adding in my experiences to make my speeches more meaningful.
Steven: Being a member of Generation Z as well as speaking in front of a lot of them, have you seen any trends as far as how brands can resonate more with this younger generation?
Ariana: The real way to connect with Generation Z is to have ambassadors that are also young. With ambassadors that are also a part of Gen Z, companies can be more effective in allowing their younger customers to resonate with their brands.
Steven: You’ve done a lot of really interesting work. Do you hope to pursue a full-time career in speaking, philanthropy, cooking, etc. (any one of them) in the future?
Ariana: I want to work at the intersection of them all. It would be great to get more into the entertainment industry while continuing to get better at cooking. One day, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to do my own show, cook, and talk to other people. I want to continue to do things that have an impact on others.
I have no doubt that Ariana will continue on her trajectory to getting better at cooking as well as furthering her work in philanthropy and public speaking. Having experienced first-hand the impact that her work has on kids and cancer-fighting non-profit organizations, Ariana clearly knows what she wants to spend her time on – meaningful projects that bring joy to others.
Ariana seems to acknowledge that she has a lot to think about in the span of her career to figure out what exactly she wants to do many years later. But this uncertainty hardly matters.
At 14, Ariana has found her mandate. She loves to cook. That will never change. She has a dedication to helping others. That won’t either. She definitely sounds like a young woman who will go on to make a significant impact on her community and beyond in the years to come.
Steven is the founder of ProjectileX, Managing Editor of Youth Business Collective, Fellow at Stanford’s Designership Institute, and Member of the Youth Skills Initiative at Global Business Coalition for Education.