- Helena Oliviero The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Jasmine Stewart vividly remembers when she was 3 years old helping her mom make pancakes. And it didn’t get off to a great start.
Jasmine cracked an egg and it broke into several pieces, with the yolk, 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.
From there, Jasmine continued to spend time in the kitchen with her parents and developed an affinity for cooking. She started making omelets and burgers, salads and cupcakes.
Now 12, Jasmine, who lives in Milton, is one of two kids from metro Atlanta in the top six in the fifth season of “Master Chef Junior” on Fox, airing on Thursday evenings from 8-9 p.m. (The other local contestant in the top 6 is Justise Mayberry, 11, of Sugar Hill. Go to www.ajc.com to read the Q and A with Justise). Jasmine and Justise were among 40 talented kids between 8 and 13 who were selected from a nationwide search for the best junior home cooks across the country.
The culinary competition features a series of delicious challenges — from sushi to steaks to gingerbread houses and macaroons. The young contestants have also cooked a meal for more than 40 first responders. Surprise guests and diners have included renowned chef Wolfgang Puck and former first lady Michelle Obama. The Muppets will join the show on the May 4 episode.
The host of the show is Gordon Ramsay, British star chef of “Hell’s Kitchen.” He is joined by renowned pastry chef Christina Tosi. Together, they 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 take home a trophy — and a $100,000 grand prize.
During a recent episode, Jasmine was eliminated but she, along with five other contestants, were brought back for a another chance. She ended up winning her cooking challenge (she broke down a whole chicken) and has remained in the competition ever since.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently interviewed Jasmine, a 6th grader at the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, about her love of cooking and about being on the show, which was filmed in Los Angeles. She was not allowed to discuss the results. (See below for one of Jasmine’s favorite recipes). Here are some excerpts from the interview:
Where do you get your inspiration?
A: I get a lot of my inspiration from my parents. My mom loves to cook Southern food, and kind of home-style cooking that makes you feel warm inside, and my dad loves to cook a lot of elaborate breakfast foods — things that wake you up in the morning and make you super-excited to start the day, like tomato pancakes or homemade French toast or crepes. Another thing is our household is busy, but we can make quick, tasty and good food.
What are some of the things perfected or techniques you learned being on the show?
A: I’ve learned to how to cut things a lot more. At my house, my parents were a little bit nervous with me using knives. I think when I got to the kitchen (on the show), I was able to experiment with a lot of cutting techniques and I think I perfected that a lot more. I am really good now with cooking with high flames, and I’ve learned how to flambe, which is pretty cool.
What advice would you give children who want to learn how to cook and don’t know how to do it?
Jump right in and don’t be nervous. Find someone who inspires you and find someone who excites you, and who really represents your style. Don’t worry about making mistakes or messing up at first. Keep on trying. Always study what you are making so you perfect it, and practice. One thing I love to do is watch cooking shows for inspiration.
What do you want people who watch the show to learn about you?
I got eliminated from the show and came back and am now in the top six. I want people to take from me that I never give up and I always keep my head up high, and I am always ready to take on a new challenge.
What is the toughest aspect of being on the show?
I would say the toughest aspect of being on the show is concentrating honestly because you have other kids cooking around you, and for me, it’s hard because I am usually cooking by myself in my own space where I can really focus. Another thing that was difficult is to listen to what the judges would say because you would really get nervous and you never wanted to disappoint them. For me, I would get a little bit scared when they were judging my food. But you have to learn how to be confident in what you are making.
Jasmine’s Garlic Rosemary Salt Crusted Roasted Chicken
4 chicken breasts (bone in)
1 bulb garlic
4 sprigs rosemary
½ tablespoons of garlic powder
1 ½ tablespoons of sea salt
1 ½ tablespoons of salt
½ teaspoon of black pepper
¼ cup of olive oil
Preheat oven to 400F. In a separate bowl, zest the lemon and mix the zest together with 2 grated garlic cloves. Add in the dried rosemary, the garlic powder, the sea salt, the salt and the black pepper and mix together well. Brush both sides of the chicken generously with the olive oil. Spread the salt mixture evenly on both sides of the chicken. Slice the second lemon into 8 pieces and add 2 onto each breast. Add 1 rosemary sprig and 2 garlic cloves on each breast. Place chicken in the oven and cook for approximately 60 minutes turning them half-way. After turning half-way, let them cook for 10 minutes then flip back to other side and continue cooking.