Teen chef on TV's Chopped
The assumption is teenage boys know their way around a table at meal time, but not many can say the same thing about the kitchen.
Sixteen-year-old Cameron MacDonald, a Grade 11 student at Collingwood Collegiate Institute, has more insight in that department than most of his contemporaries, and he will put his skill to the test Saturday at 9 p.m. on the Food Network’s Chopped Canada Teen competition.
“The first job that I had in the summer after Grade 8 was in the kitchen at Boston Pizza,” said MacDonald. “I just started because you can be so creative in the food industry. There isn’t really anything that is holding you back. You can do it and find new things.”
For MacDonald, cooking is a passion, and passions have to begin somewhere. For him, it was playing around with plastic food from the dollar store when he was seven, and then the movie Ratatouille became a favourite showing – an animated account of what happens in a restaurant’s kitchen – minus the rat.
He was hooked.
From there, cooking became an adventure.
According to his father, Aaron Brown, it wasn’t grilled cheese sandwiches coming out of the kitchen, but bacon-wrapped scallops.
Despite his culinary prowess, it doesn’t hold him back from playing rugby on his high-school squad or with the Georgian Bay Titans, or killing some off-time playing video games on his Xbox.
“It’s not like he’s always in the kichen, but if he’s playing on his Xbox, you will see his laptop beside him streaming Hell’s Kitchen or Michael Smith,” said Brown.
And it’s not as if he is one-upping his mom in food prep.
“The food my mom cooks is really good, but when I cook, it is just different. I make a mess of the kitchen. It’s more upscale,” said MacDonald. “I see ideas from some of the shows I watch from higher-end restaurants and I take ideas and just go with them.”
MacDonald thought about applying for the Chopped Canada challenge before. He didn’t, but when the chance came in May of last year, he jumped at it.
His appearance on Chopped Canada Teen is the first episode of the five-part series.
The show picked 20 teens, who producers felt were Canada’s best teen cooks, and will have them battle it out for a chance to win $10,000.
Just like their adult counterparts, four young cooks face the clock before a rotating panel of expert judges in each episode. Competitors between the ages of 14 and 17 from across Canada put their skills to the test in an attempt to turn baskets of mystery ingredients into an extraordinary three-course meal within a limited amount of time. Course by course, the judges decide who will be “chopped” from the competition, until one remains. The last competitor standing will collect the cash and win the title of Chopped Canada Teen champion.
MacDonald’s friends will have to watch the show to see how he did, but he said he did find the experience challenging.
“It was intimidating because of the professional judges that were there and them actually tasting your food,” said MacDonald.
Although MacDonald isn’t sure he’s ready to see himself on television, he has taken the night off from his weekend work at Oliver and Bonacini Café Grill and expects a crowd of family and friends at his house, watching.
“I don’t know if I want to watch myself of TV, but my parents are excited to see it,” said MacDonald.
When asked what he was going to cook for the crowd, there was a pause.
“I hadn’t really thought about it. I guess I could ... I should. Yeah, that would be a good idea,” said MacDonald.