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MasterChef Junior’s Andrew Discusses His Style of Leadership, Helping Others in the Kitchen and More [Exclusive]

Photo Credit: Greg Gayne/FOX

Photo Credit: Greg Gayne/FOX

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

It it just me, or are these kids cooking at such a high level that they’d put professional (adult) chefs to shame? I’m just constantly amazed and impressed by the quality of food they are able to churn out of the MasterChef Junior kitchen every week. And this week’s “Creme de la Creme” looks like it will be a real challenge, not only because it involves baking but because this is the last chance the final 4 chefs will get to impress the judges. Who will make it into the finale? You’ll have to watch tonight to find out.

Last week, I had a chance to talk to Jenna, Kayla and Ayla about the competition thus far. This week, I talk to Nathan, Jimmy and Andrew about the series so far, how they’ve evolved as chefs and what to expect in this week’s episode.

Photo Credit: Greg Gayne/FOX

Photo Credit: Greg Gayne/FOX

TV GOODNESS: Congratulations on being part of the top 4. How does it feel to have made it this far in the competition?

Andrew: “I think it’s really cool being in the top 4. There’s such strong competition. It’s just a great opportunity with all the challenges that I had to overcome to get here. I think I deserved to get here, but we all did.”

TV GOODNESS: You’ve said that you started baking with your grandmother at a very young age. What was your favorite thing to bake?

Andrew: “My favorite thing to bake with my grandmother was pound cake. She would do, I think, a 2 egg pound cake, so it wasn’t a pound of eggs. But we did this recipe for pound cake and I always got to lick the bowl. That was my favorite recipe that we made, my favorite dessert. As the years progressed – and before she died — we’d been making changes to it. [I] still have the original recipe, so sometimes [I’ll] add a little more lemon extract or put in vanilla extract or sometimes French vanilla bean, if we can get a hold of it because it’s really expensive. We just had different things we could put into that dish.”

Photo Credit: Greg Gayne/FOX

Photo Credit: Greg Gayne/FOX

TV GOODNESS: What’s your favorite dessert to make now?

Andrew: “My favorite dessert to make now is bananas foster, with the flambe and getting to light it on fire. The thing I like eating the most, the finished product, is definitely the pound cake. It’s a blank canvas. You can do anything you want with it. You can throw in chocolate chips or orange or orange extract or vanilla or lemon extract. You can throw anything in there. But definitely for the cooking process, I think bananas foster is much more interesting. I think we’d all rather see something go up in flames than watch something bake in the oven. It’s like watching paint dry.”

TV GOODNESS: How and when did your love of baking translate or evolve into you wanting to become a chef?

Andrew: “After awhile of baking with my grandmother, she made me eggs for breakfast, sausage sandwiches for lunch and Hungarian food for dinner, like goulash. She made that and I thought it was so amazing, not just dessert. I watched all these TV commercials with food in it and that looked really cool. I really wanted to try that. I tried it around the age of 4 and I was good at it. I kept trying and between the ages of 6 and 8 I was making dinner for my family alone.”

TV GOODNESS: At what point did you think you wanted to be on MasterChef Junior? And what did you think the show would be like?

Andrew: “After season 1…well, I was watching on September 11th. I remember this, it was Wednesday and I was watching the season 4 finale of the adult version and an ad came up for MasterChef Junior. I thought that was so cool. I ran and told my mom, ‘Mom. I can do that. I can do that.’ At the end of the season there was a little pop-up. I applied and a month or so later we got a call. My mom thought it was a telemarketer because the number was really far away. It turned out to be New York. We come from such a small town, it’s just one area code and when you see another one you just think it’s someone trying to sell you something. It was a producer from the MasterChef Junior series. They asked if I wanted to go to an audition in New York. My mom gave me that look like, ‘What did you get yourself into?’ We took a bus and we went to the auditions. After the auditions they wanted us to come back and do more things. It just progressed from there. They wanted me to be on the show and that was really amazing.”

TV GOODNESS: What’s been exciting about being in the competition?

Andrew: “Being in the competition is really cool. When you watch it on TV, it’s really different. You get to see more. I’m trying to think of an example. I didn’t get to see on “Restaurant Takeover” that Jimmy’s plates were dirty. I didn’t know that because I was focused on my food. They didn’t show that there were three fires on the right side. It’s just really different, but it’s still really fun to watch.”

Photo Credit: Greg Gayne/FOX

Photo Credit: Greg Gayne/FOX

TV GOODNESS: It’s been so exciting to watch. Let’s talk about “Restaurant Takeover.” When did you realize you had to change your leadership style?

Andrew: “I realized that in the middle of the challenge. I wasn’t yelling as loud as they showed. They had the microphones on us so you could hear everything. But Chef Ramsay had a talk with me about the appetizers. He told me I had to totally change my leadership style, so after the pan went up in flames – which was crazy. It went up in flames because the fan was really hot. He told me to go out into the parking lot and I knew I needed to change the way I was doing it, not just screaming, ‘No excuses. I need the food.’ So, they were giving me excuses at some point.

After I changed my leadership style, instead of saying, ‘You do this. You do that,’ all working as a team, all communicating was a lot better. When we were all communicating, we were all doing really well.”

TV GOODNESS: What do you think that challenge taught you about being a chef?

Andrew: “The challenge taught me that being a chef in a kitchen is a lot harder than it looks, but if you work as a team you can absolutely pull it off.”

TV GOODNESS: Talk to me about what your favorite challenge has been so far and why.

Andrew: “My favorite challenge was the Salmon En Croute challenge with Chef Ramsay’s daughter. I won that challenge, which made me a captain for the “Restaurant Takeover.” That was one of my best wins because I helped Jenna, which no one’s ever done because it’s a competition. No one told me to [help her.] I was just being myself.”

TV GOODNESS: I love that you’re a fierce competitor in the kitchen, but we’ve also seen you be so helpful and encouraging with Riley during the sushi boat challenge and as you just mentioned, with Jenna during her hollandaise sauce issue. What was your cooking philosophy during your time in the MasterChef Junior kitchen?

Andrew: “I wanted to be really competitive, I was really competitive and I really wanted to win, but you still had to do nice things. Even when I was picking teams, Jenna didn’t want to be on my team even though I helped her, which was really strange. I didn’t even know that. I think my philosophy was definitely being yourself and not too much confusion, just simple, straight-forward, get to the point.”

Photo Credit: Greg Gayne/FOX

Photo Credit: Greg Gayne/FOX

TV GOODNESS: Let’s talk about this week’s “Crème de la Crème.” I know you can’t say much, but what are you allowed to tell me about the episode?

Andrew:
“We’re working with raspberries and the raspberries were falling on our head. I felt like someone was shooting at me. I covered my head and had no idea what was going on until I saw them hit the floor. Then I started eating them. I picked it up and put it in my mouth. I kept eating more and more until I heard the judges say, ‘You’re working with raspberries.’ And torching the Crème Brulee was fun because working with fire is really cool, really fun. Chef Ramsay showed us a little demo. That [is] probably one of the best episodes.”

TV GOODNESS: Let’s talk about the judges a little bit: Gordon, Graham and Joe. They seem like really great mentors. What’s the most valuable piece of advice they’ve given you?

Andrew: “With the leadership challenge, working as a team from Chef Ramsay. From Graham, I don’t know if they showed it, but with Corey in the sausage challenge that I had to step up and be a leader. With Joe, I don’t know if he gave me any advice. But he liked my food. By the way he kept eating my food, maybe that’s advice. I’m not sure.”

TV GOODNESS: My final question is do you want to have a restaurant and a cooking show when you’re older? If so, what kind?

Andrew: “I definitely want to have a crepe restaurant called Holy Crepe. I love crepes. I also love steak. Maybe I can have Holy Crepe somewhere and an Italian steakhouse somewhere or a combination of both called Crepes and Steak. I love both, but I don’t know about putting them together. Maybe that’ll defy all physical things that humans can do. I would love to have just one restaurant.

It would be an honor working under Gordon Ramsay, just really cool.”

Edited for space and content.

MasterChef Junior airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on FOX.

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