Hoboken Boy Teams With Guy Fieri

A couple years ago, Gibson Borelli of Hoboken took one of my pie-baking classes for kids. Now the 12-year-old has won a spot on the new season of the Food Network’s Rachael vs.Guy: Kids Cook-Off, which runs every Sunday through September 21.

Guy Fieri with Gibson Borelli of Hoboken
Guy Fieri gives his teammate Gibson Borelli, 12, some pointers on season two of Rachael vs. Guy: Kids Cook-Off.
Photo courtesy of the Food Network

When Gibson took my class, his mom, Alison, an attorney, photographed him holding his pie. Seconds later, he tripped on the stairs, but managed to right himself and snatch the pie out of the air without losing a crumb. The kid is one cool customer.

Or, as he says on his audition video

“I have a more mature personality than the kids my age.” And as his mom attests in the same video, “Gibson is an old soul in a little kid’s body.”

In the TV series, now in its second season, Rachael Ray and Guy Fieri each field a team of four kid chefs. Gibson is on Fieri’s team–heaven for Gibson, who calls Fieri “my idol.”

Celebrity guests, including Wolfgang Puck and Curtis Stone, judge the weekly challenges, which are designed to test not only the kids’ culinary skills but also their talent for exuding energy and charm on camera.

At Stake: The grand prize, a TV cooking series of their own.

Borelli, about to enter seventh grade, heard about the casting call from one of his cooking teachers and was so excited, “I was screaming, ‘Let’s give it a shot!'”

He sent in the online application and soon was invited to an interview in New York. Two weeks later, a call came requesting an audition video. In it, he chatters cheerfully while making turkey sausage with peppers and onions and tossing around terms like julienne and chiffonade.

Mom Alison appears in the video making a grilled cheese sandwich on the burner next to the one where Gibson is making his sausage dish.

Just before that scene, Gibson turns to the camera and asks, “Who’s the best cook in the house?” We can guess the answer. Gibson lays it on with plenty of mustard: “There’s no competition, because I’m the only cook in the house!”

When I spoke to him recently, he told me why he started cooking: “My mom doesn’t cook at all. I wanted a home-cooked meal, and there was no one around to make it.”

His babysitter always watched food shows on TV, so by age seven Gibson was puttering around in the kitchen. His Jewish maternal grandmother taught him to make brisket. His Dad’s Italian mother schooled him in garlic bread, pizza and pasta.

“I don’t like to cook at all,” admits Alison. “I never have the time to cook. When dinner time comes, I start to get anxiety. Thank God Gibson makes really good dinners” for the family, which includes dad Brett, an insurance broker, and a twin sister and younger brother, none of whom like to cook.

In June, after the show’s producers visited the Borellis’ home to watch Gibson prepare pasta with broccoli rabe, chicken sausage and lemon parsley asparagus, Mom and son were flown to Los Angeles for three weeks of filming the second season episodes.

A clever part of the program puts the parent on camera reacting to how his or her son or daughter handles the episode’s challenges.

“I had to look my best,” says Alison. “It was great, but stressful.”

She worried about Gibson spending long days competing on camera while keeping up with his schoolwork with the on-set tutor. But, she says, “He was grace under pressure; he was strong.”

Both were pleased with the bond all the families and kids made with each and with the program staff. Everyone stayed at the same hotel and had dinner together each night.

“We became the best of friends,” says Gibson. “Each person I met was so friendly, so nice, so genuine. Honestly, it was the best experience of my life.”

He can’t reveal any specifics of the show, let alone who won, so I’m curious to see if he got to use the pie-baking skills I taught him.

All he would say, with an infectious giggle, was…

“Tune in!”

I’ll be watching.

SUZANNE ZIMMER LOWERY is a food writer, pastry chef and culinary instructor at a number of New Jersey cooking schools. Find out more about her at suzannelowery.com.

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