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    Here's How This 17-Year-Old Became A Private Chef And Launched A Career

    "I cooked Thanksgiving dinner by myself when I was 9."

    Imagine that you're a private chef and you've just been hired to cook your first dinner.

    Now imagine that you're only 13 years old. By age 13, Ariana Feygin had already raised nearly $200,000 in charity for the Pinky Swear Foundation (an organization that works to provide aid to children with cancer), worked as a private chef, and competed on MasterChef Junior.

    FOX / Masterchef Junior / Via youtube.com

    "My younger siblings and I had been fundraising for them [Pinky Swear Foundation] since before I went on MasterChef," Ariana said. "I asked them if they'd consider putting a private dinner in their live auction, and they said yes. Once that dinner sold pretty well, then more organizations started reaching out."

    At first, the now-17-year-old's dinners weren't necessarily the fastest. "I was cooking for a whole party — just little me by myself — so it was a little slow," she laughed. "And people were very patient, which was great at first, and then as I got older that didn't fly."

    @arianafeygin / Via tiktok.com

    "So I got my act together and streamlined the whole private dining experience so that people aren't sitting there for hours while I cook. I do a lot of prep in advance [now]."

    Obviously, it's not every day that you see people willing to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to have a 13-year-old cook them dinner. But appearing on a national cooking competition does have its advantages.

    FOX / Masterchef Junior / Via youtube.com

    "After filming, we [the other contestants and families] would all get together and sit at a restaurant," Ariana explained. "The kids would sit separately from the parents, and it was the funniest thing because they'd bring us the kids' menu and we'd get so offended."

    Ariana said she discovered her passion for cooking at just 4 years old. But watching MasterChef Junior is what solidified her desire to cook professionally. "I saw what these kids were doing on the show, and I was like, wow, I didn't even know that kids could cook, let alone cook at the level that I was seeing them do on MasterChef," she said. "And from that point on, I watched every episode religiously starting from Season 1, until I started trying out for it."

    Masterchef Junior / Via youtube.com

    She auditioned three times, beginning at age 9, before beating out thousands of other kids for a spot on the show in 2015.

    On TikTok, Ariana has found an audience of dedicated fans who frequently request that she recreate dishes that she made on the show. She got on TikTok in 2020, and she thinks the pandemic is to credit for some of her success on the platform.

    @arianafeygin / Via tiktok.com

    "Food TikTok was really born during the pandemic," she said. "I think many people discovered a career on social media, not just within the food space, but within many spaces during the pandemic."

    Another fan favorite: creating dishes from popular movies and TV shows. "When I'm making a dish from a Disney show or movie, people feel so happy when they see it," she said. "When you just sort of pick a random recipe, it's a little bit more difficult to capture somebody's attention, as opposed to creating something that people feel immediately connected to."

    @arianafeygin / Via tiktok.com

    It's interesting to think that one of the youngest chefs in the world found her passion for the culinary arts entirely on her own, but Ariana says that's what happens when you grow up with parents who "don't really cook that much." (Although, she does have "one grandma on my dad's side that's an amazing cook.")

    @arianafeygin / Via tiktok.com, @arianafeygin / Via tiktok.com

    A Betty Crocker cake decorating video was the spark that ignited her curiosity for the culinary arts. "And then I just continued down the YouTube rabbit hole and devoured quite literally — pun intended — every cookbook that we had in our house."

    She credits a lot of her success to her family and community in her hometown of Excelsior, Minnesota. "My next door neighbor owns a popular restaurant here in Minnesota, and when I was preparing for MasterChef, he let me sneak into the kitchen and do sort of this hidden internship type of situation," she laughed. "I would come in super early in the morning, cook all day at the restaurant, and then leave late at night."

    @arianafeygin / Via tiktok.com

    It sounds like a lot of work, but it's nothing Ariana can't handle. She once cooked Thanksgiving dinner for her entire family, at only 9 years old.

    @arianafeygin / Via tiktok.com

    "Or maybe a little bit younger...but I informed my parents that I would be preparing the Thanksgiving dinner," she laughed. "And even though we ate at probably, like, midnight, it was a good meal."

    Ariana said her dream had always been to star on a travel cooking show where she could "raise awareness for different global issues," but the pandemic has slightly altered that dream.

    @arianafeygin / Via tiktok.com

    "I have had the privilege to grow an audience, and that's something that I don't take lightly at all," she said. "As I've made a career out of doing social media content, I've realized that sort of people's viewership of linear TV is low and [focused more on] shortform content. So I wonder if the show that I've been dreaming of would be some sort of Instagram original or TED Talk or something."

    Whatever she does next, I'm sure it will be delicious!

    @arianafeygin / Via tiktok.com