Three young chefs in Georgia are in the top 18 in the fifth season of “MasterChef Junior” on Fox, airing on Thursday evenings. They are among 40 talented kids between ages 8 and 13 who were selected from a nationwide search for the best junior home cooks across the country.
The three kids from Georgia include:
The culinary competition features a series of delicious challenges — from steak to scallops to cupcakes. They also cook a meal for more than 40 first responders, and get a culinary challenge from former first lady Michelle Obama. This season also includes the first-ever vegan challenge. Surprise guests and diners also include renowned chef Wolfgang Puck and the Muppets.
The host is Gordon Ramsay, British star chef of “Hell’s Kitchen.” He is joined by renowned pastry chef Christina Tosi. Together, these food experts coach and encourage the hopefuls to cook like pros and teach them the tricks of the trade along the way.
One of the young chefs will be named the country’s newest MasterChef Junior and will take home a trophy — and a $100,000 grand prize.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently interviewed local contestants about their love of cooking and about being on the show, which was filmed in Los Angeles. They were not allowed to discuss the results. Here are excerpts from those interviews.
Afnan Ahmad, 13, from Jonesboro: Afnan said he remembers cooking pancakes and eggs when he was around 5 years old, and his affinity for cooking really took off when a couple years ago. He loves making seafood dishes including grilled scallops and french with a curried cauliflower puree.
“I can express myself on the plate,” he said. Afnan describes his style of cooking as “global fusion,” adding he likes to use French techniques for cooking but “add flavors from around the world.”
“So I might prepare a red curry dish or a Thai curry dish and instead of putting the fish in the curry, I cook the fish separately.” Another one of his favorite dishes is to make pickled carrots. An only child, Afnan said his mom loves to cook and is a constant source of encouragement, urging him to try new things.
“My favorite part of being on the show is the amazing judges,” he said.
Jasmine Stewart, 12, of Milton: Jasmine vividly remembers helping her mom make pancakes when she was 3 years old, and it didn’t get off to a great start. She cracked an egg and it broke into many pieces, with the yolk and egg white and bits of shell spilling all over her. “But my mom told me it was OK and we tried again, and it went well. And the pancakes turned out really great,” she said.
Jasmine said cooking provides an outlet for her to express herself and be creative. “I really enjoy cooking. It creates a free place for your mind and for me,” she said. Her favorite dishes to make include cupcakes, steaks, burgers and salad.
Jasmine said cooking provides an outlet for her to express herself and be creative. “I really enjoy cooking. It creates a free place for your mind and for me,” she said. Her favorite dishes to make include cupcakes, steaks, burgers and salad. Jasmine said she decided to audition after her mom heard about the search and local auditions at a hotel in Atlanta. She said the audition started with a lengthy interview and she was then asked to cook an egg on the spot. About the show: “I never would have dreamed I would make it to the top 40. It was wonderful to be in a competition doing something I love.”
Justise Mayberry, 11, of Sugar Hill: Justise remembers cooking with her dad as soon as she could reach the counter, and by age 9 her parents trusted her to slice vegetables with knives and use the stove.
She said one of her top priorities when cooking is to prepare healthy meals. For example, she incorporates many vegetables, including onions, peppers and carrots, into a shrimp and linguine meal, one of her favorite dishes.
About cooking, Justise said, “It just makes me happy. It’s something that brings the family together and helps me not get bored.”
Being on the show has inspired her to prepare more ambitious dishes, she said. Since returning from filming the show, she recently made a steak dinner with Brussels sprouts, spinach and bacon. But this time, she made a bacon maple cream sauce to pour on top.