LIVINGSTON, NJ — Matthew Smith, a 9-year-old Livingston student with talent enough in the kitchen to stand opposite Gordon Ramsay, will appear on Season 7 of “MasterChef Junior” on FOX when it premieres on March 12 at 8 p.m.
Smith said his interest in the culinary arts began quite early in life. His aunt gifted him a chef’s jacket at 4 years old, and by age 7, Smith had developed a serious passion for experimenting in the kitchen. He was soon glued to the television watching “MasterChef Junior,” where he found gastronomic inspiration.
When Smith discovered that MasterChef was holding open auditions, he knew destiny was calling. He competed in cooking challenges against thousands of other children and was called back numerous times.
Finally, Smith was selected as one of the Elite Top 24 for the next season and received a personalized MasterChef Junior apron to wear on the show. Smith, who was 8 years old during filming and has since turned 9, competed against contestants between the ages of 8 and 13.
Award-winning chef Gordon Ramsey and renowned pastry chef Christina Tosi will judge Smith’s season of MasterChef Junior along with celebrity chef and restaurateur Aarón Sánchez.
Some of the challenges will include: creating breakfast from a box of mystery ingredients, attending a circus and cooking for the 51 performers, making a restaurant-quality fish dish, competing in teams to make a perfect 24-foot sheet of pasta and a pop-up restaurant challenge.
Smith said that participating on MasterChef Junior was an amazing experience. He added that he and the other contestants bonded over their passion for cooking and their efforts to impress the judges.
Smith, who had a tutor for a few months while filming in Los Angeles in order to keep up with schoolwork, still enjoys catching up with his new chef friends through group chats and on Instagram.
When asked if Gordon Ramsay is as tough on children as on adults, Smith replied that Gordon “corrected the children, but also praised them when they achieved what they were challenged to do.” He added that he learned a valuable lesson during the grueling competition.
“Some days aren’t as great as others, but the next day you give it your all and you can have a really good day,” he said.
Smith hadn’t attended any cooking classes until a few months before departing for Los Angeles, when he hired a professional chef to train him for the competition.
Some of his favorite meals to prepare include rack of lamb with Dijon mustard and rosemary coating as well as filet mignon with tomato salad. He specializes in cooking healthy meals and desserts and loves creating his own recipes.
Smith explained that he often replaces regular flour with almond flour and substitutes Erythritol for sugar because it’s gluten free and all natural. He also enjoys teaching his friends recipes, and said he feels it’s important for people to learn to cook when they are young.
The winner of the competition will receive $100,000 along with the title of “America's MasterChef Junior” and a trophy. Smith said that if he wins the prize money, he intends to send some of it to his grandmother, whose home was hit by Hurricane Harvey.
He also said he would enjoy a trip to Australia after hearing about it from a friend at school who moved to Livingston from Australia. Smith said he would also like to splurge on a trampoline with some of his winnings, but he doesn’t think his parents will agree to this.
Tune in to “MasterChef Junior” on FOX on March 12 to see how Livingston’s Junior MasterChef fares.