Children showing off their culinary prowess is part television's booming landscape. Programs such as Master Chef Junior and Top Chef Junior ratchet up the excitement, putting pressure on children as they face the countdown clock.
Not all kids' cooking shows are sweaty competitions, however, such as Cooking with Kyssara, which returns for a second season this fall on Telus TV. This award-winning series delivers the softer side of kitchen challenges, the fun, laid-back vibe that mimics the slow food movement.
As the program’s charming host, Kyssara, 10, cooks foods kids love to eat under the guidance of chefs and pastry professionals. By showcasing cooking and baking skills, this six-episode series empowers children to step into the kitchen and get creative.
The episodes were filmed in Edmonton, Sherwood Park, and at St. Albert’s Confections Cake Company & Dessert Bar, where an official film screening will be held Thursday, Aug. 4. Kyssara, as well as the cast and crew, are attending.
Each recipe offers a sophisticated presentation while being easy to make. Kyssara is, after all, part of a generation lapping up the Food Network, and somehow peanut butter and jelly sandwiches don’t do the trick anymore.
“She does enjoy cooking, but at the moment she doesn’t aspire to be a chef,” laughs Anne Mueller, Kyssara’s mother, and the series writer, director, and producer.
Mueller is a Toronto transplant now living in Sherwood Park, who gained film experience with shows such as Ready or Not, Studio 54, The Corruptor, and Nikita. She moved west to pick up an education degree, and is currently employed by Edmonton’s Public School Board.
While COVID forced the entertainment industry’s massive shutdown, it also prompted Mueller's idea for a cooking show.
“During the pandemic, I had a lot of time to cook with my daughter and son, and it was fun working together in the kitchen. We tried out so many different recipes,” Mueller said, and her family began shooting their cooking sessions on a cellphone.
Running parallel to spending more time in the kitchen, Mueller was also scrolling the web searching for auditions or any hint of theatrical jobs.
“At the end of 2021, I was on Facebook and I saw an ad on Telus Storyhive seeking out new content creators in Alberta and British Columbia. Anyone could apply if they had an idea. I wrote an essay on cooking, and answered their questions. I didn’t think they’d respond because I sent it in the last day, but a few weeks later they contacted me and said they loved the idea of a kids’ cooking show.”
Positioning Kyssara as host was a no-brainer. Following in her mother’s footsteps, the preteen had already acted in commercials for United Way, Alberta Blue Cross, and the Gordie Howe C.A.R.E.S. Centre for Alzheimer’s in Calgary. In addition, she also modelled in several campaigns.
After receiving $5,000 from Telus Storyhive, the family shot three episodes in Alberta and British Columbia, and went on to win several international awards in various categories, leading Telus to invite the Mueller team to apply for a second round.
This time, Storyhive increased funding to $10,000 for a six-episode series to be shot between January and June, 2022.
“We had to be really careful how we spent the money. It pretty much all went to production. Nine out of 10 people we contacted volunteered their time. We didn’t have rehearsals. We just went in and captured what we could in one take.”
Each episode runs an average of 25 minutes. While Kyssara’s dish is cooking or baking, she takes a break and reads a children’s illustrated book to viewers until the timer goes off.
“We would go to the library and take a look at picture books. I would ask Kyssara which ones had the most powerful message. She definitely had input.”
The screening takes place Thursday, Aug. 4 at 7 p.m. at Confections Cake, 15 Perron St. The dessert bar can only accommodate 50 people so it's first come, first serve.