‘MasterChef Junior Live!’ cooking up some fun in Pittsburgh
Kids in the kitchen aren’t necessarily a recipe for disaster.
It was just the opposite for Jasmine Stewart, whose creativity and persistence helped her win the grand prize of $100,000 at age 12 on Season 5 of “MasterChef Junior,” a culinary competition series for ages 8-13 on Fox television.
The seventh-grade student from Milton, Ga., survived elimination on the show and fought her way back through cooking challenges to become one of the finalists and the eventual winner.
She finished first in a molten lava cake challenge and prepared an impressive three-course meal for the judges that featured a white fish and scallop appetizer with green papaya salad, a coconut curry and lobster tail entree and her sticky rum cake with pineapple chips.
Stewart credits her parents for introducing her to a variety of foods and cooking styles.
“My dad is from Jamaica, which is very tropical, and my mom is from Virginia and makes very Southern dishes. They are such a big influence on my cooking,” she said.
Now 14 and a high school freshman, she has gone on to create her own company focused on girl empowerment and motivational speaking, with dreams of having her own television cooking show like her celebrity chef heroes Gordon Ramsey — one of the hosts and executive producers of “MasterChef Junior” — and Martha Stewart.
“What I love most about cooking is that it brings the family together,” she said.
What’s cooking at the Byham
Jasmine Stewart is one of four alums from the TV cooking show who will be part of a 16-city “MasterChef Junior Live!” tour that kicks off Oct. 3 in Joliet, Ill., and visits Pittsburgh on Oct. 6 at the Byham Theater as part of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s Cohen & Grigsby Trust Presents Series.
The new production from TCG Entertainment and EndemolShine North America will feature head-to-head cooking competitions with past MasterChef Junior all-stars and fan favorites, question-and-answer sessions and audience participation.
Also demonstrating his cooking skills onstage will be Matthew Smith, 9, of Livingston, N.J., a Top 8 finalist in last season’s TV competition.
Some of his challenges included creating breakfast from a box of mystery ingredients, cooking for 51 circus performers, preparing a restaurant-worthy fish dish and making a perfect 24-foot sheet of pasta with his teammates.
The fourth-grade student said he’s enjoyed helping with the cooking at home since he was 2, but only started “taking it seriously” at age 6.
“Being on the ‘MasterChef Junior’ TV show was fun,” he said, “but the best part was just the memories of being in (Los Angeles) California,” where the show is filmed. And he doesn’t really aspire to a career as a chef.
“I love cooking, don’t get me wrong,” said Smith, whose favorite food is an unlikely kid’s dish — rack of lamb with Dijon mustard and rosemary coating served with Greek salad and tzatziki, “but I love a bunch of other things, too, like swimming, dancing, gymnastics and the performing arts.”
Inspiring kids to cook
He said he was looking forward to the “MasterChef Junior Live!” tour “to hopefully inspire other kids to cook and eat healthy and to chase their dreams no matter the circumstances.”
The “MasterChef Junior Live!” host at the Byham will be Casey Shane, a New York-based performer whose credits include regional theater productions in New York, Maine, Massachusetts and North Carolina.
Stephen Cook, founder and president of TCG Entertainment, said the stage show incorporates a few key elements: the kids from “MasterChef Junior” showing off their cooking abilities, some “fun, crazy, zany stuff” and audience participation, which is an integral part of the production.
“This is a highly rated show with a good fan base,” he said. “We wanted the touring show to be for families to spend a couple hours together having fun. In this day and age with kids hooked to their devices, it’s important to have that togetherness time.”
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.