LIVINGSTON, NJ – After placing in the Top 8 during the most recent season of “MasterChef Junior” on FOX, Harrison Elementary School third grader Matthew Smith was honored by Livingston Mayor Al Anthony and members of the township council for his accomplishments.
Smith stole the hearts of Monday’s council meeting attendees as he expressed gratitude toward the township and his family—specifically admiring his own father for being “the most fabulous dad a dad could be” and saying that he can “see it in [Anthony’s] eyes” that he “seems like a wonderful dad” as well.
“Thank you so much for being the mayor and everyone for just honoring Livingston and for giving me this amazing chance,” he said as the mayor and council officially declared Monday, June 17 as “Matthew Smith Day” in Livingston.
Smith, who has been a fan of “MasterChef Junior” since 2013 and was only 8 years old when he was selected as one of the Elite Top 24 to compete on Season 7, competed against contestants between the ages of 8 and 13 for judges Gordon Ramsey, Christina Tosi and Aarón Sánchez.
Councilman Michael Vieira, who encouraged residents throughout the season to tune into FOX in support of the young chef, asked Smith on Monday whether Ramsey is "as scary as he seems on TV.”
“He’s kind of like a computer, so like if you have a really nice dish, he will praise you up the wazoo, but if you have a bad dish, he’ll give you constructive criticism and you just have to have tough skin and take it all in like a man,” said Smith.
Smith’s love for cooking began when he was 4 years old, baking holiday pies and cakes with his mother, and has rapidly grown. When he learned there was an opportunity to compete on the show, his family subscribed to a home-delivery meal service and Smith began taking private cooking lessons with Livingston-based chef Lori Shapiro.
According to Smith, who is now 9 years old, his signature dish is Dijon-coated rack of lamb served with sautéed asparagus, and he also enjoys making his father’s favorite breakfast, steak and eggs.
“To us, that should be the new American breakfast,” said Smith, who is also very health-conscious. “I’m not a big breakfast fan, but I love dinner, so I’m like, ‘Why not combine those together,’ and boom.”
One of Smith's goals on the show was “to positively impact other kids to cook and eat healthy and to be kind,” according to the township’s official proclamation, which also states that Smith recently completed a cooking demo in New York City at the Healthy Food Kids Festival.
When Anthony asked Smith whether he cooks well, the third grader said, “Yes, I do, not to brag”—a response that delighted his audience.
“But at the same time, I do not think that is all that defines me because I’m not just somebody who likes to cook,” he said. “I love to act, sing, dance and I love to play sports, too.”
Among his other hobbies, Smith also enjoys swimming, gymnastics, playing the piano and playing on his recreation baseball team.
“My dad’s the coach and he’s just fabulous at it,” Smith said of his baseball team. “It’s just fun and I can hang out with my friends and I can just have a good time, so I encourage people to do it.”
Smith was one of the youngest chefs on Season 7, and just before he was eliminated, Chef Ramsey declared that this season was the fiercest competition he had ever seen. In fact, instead of sending anyone home after the Top 10 elimination challenge, the judges decided to keep all 10.
“We definitely have the best Top 10 ever in the history of this competition,” Ramsey said during the episode.
Keeping all 10 chefs meant that two would be eliminated the following week, but once again Smith prevailed and advanced to the Top 8. It was in the 10th week of competition that the young chef was eliminated along with his teammate following a tapas-themed tag-team challenge.
“For the eight years I have been on this planet, this has been the best time in my life,” he said on his way out of the MasterChef kitchen. “I have so many memories to take with me. So, kids, if you ever want to be part of something, follow your dreams ‘cuz it’s gonna happen.”
As part of his reward for making it to the Top 10, Smith was offered a spot at Camp MasterChef this summer.
The mayor was full of praise on Monday for Livingston’s youth, as this presentation came shortly after the council honored a group of Livingston students for creating a Monarch Butterfly Garden just outside Town Hall and shortly before the council honored members of Boy Scouts Troop 12 for a recent deed.
“Tonight’s been just a remarkable example of our youth in town and what a great future this country, this town, this world has,” he said.
Click on the headlines below to read about more recent accomplishments from Livingston’s younger residents: