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Congrats, Jasmine

Jasmine Stewart Channels her Jamaican Roots to Cop MasterChef Junior

Thursday, June 01, 2017

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Thursday Food was thrilled with the news, a few weeks ago, that 12-year-old Jasmine Stewart, a Milton middle school student with Jamaican roots, had won the MasterChef Junior FOX TV series, the MasterChef Junior trophy, as well as the $100,000 grand prize.

The series, which is hosted by British culinary star Chef Gordon Ramsay and renowned pastry chef Christina Tosi, tests the abilities of young chefs in a series of food challenges varying in difficulty.

Stewart made her way from Top 40 to Top 20 to Top 12 before being eliminated.

However, fate smiled on her, providing an opportunity to be one of six junior chef-testants returning to cook their way back into the competition. “It did not feel good to be sent home, so I worked hard to not have that happen again in the competition,” she said.

Stewart returned with a vengeance and won the advantage challenge of cutting up a whole chicken. The rest is now pure foodie history...

 

Thursday Food scored an exclusive interview with Jasmine Stewart, MasterChef Junior.

 

Thursday Food (TF): Jasmine, tell us about your Jamaican roots.

 

Jasmine Stewart (JS): My dad, Steven, is a proud Jamaican and always talks to me about his childhood growing up in Jamaica and the foods he ate. He is from Kingston and is a physician.

 

TF: Tell us about your foray into food...

 

JS: My mom Deborah, an attorney-at-law, cooks daily and lets me cook with her in the kitchen. I thought it was a lot of fun and allowed me to be very creative. I have been cooking since I was around the age of three and my mom has always encouraged me to try new things. It was always fun to make something and then have my family eat it and provide their feedback. I enjoy studying recipes and creating my own, and my mom allows me to collect cookbooks.

 

TF: Tell us about the first meal you cooked.

 

JS: The earliest meal that I can remember is when I made pancakes with my mom. I was so excited. She gave me the task of cracking eggs and I made a huge mess!

I thought she would be mad but she just told me that we could start again and not to worry about mistakes. We started over and our pancakes were so good. I had so much fun that I could not wait to get into the kitchen again. A few years later, I had a birthday party and prepared the meal for all of my friends. Everyone said the food was good and told me to keep cooking.

Entering MasterChef Junior

JS: My mom took me to an audition in Atlanta, because she thought it would be fun, especially since I like to cook and watch the show. I never dreamed it would end with me being on the show, let alone winning it!

 

TF: How was the elimination process?

 

JS: The elimination process was always sad, but we all understood it was part of the programme. It's never fun to say goodbye to people and we were all working very hard. When I was sent home I was really disappointed because I wasn't ready to go home. However, I learned from my mistakes and challenged myself to earn a place back into the competition. It did not feel good to be sent home so I worked hard to not have that happen again in the competition.

 

TF: You made your way to the finals. What stands out? What was your most nerve-wracking moment?

 

JS: Well, I would say that the closer we got to the finals, the more I knew I had to focus and win my challenges. The team challenges stand out because working in teams causes you to work together and focus as a unit on a win, even though we each individually were trying to win the title. I enjoyed it because it makes you use your leadership skills and your voice. It also makes you patient and you have to be a good teammate. My most nerve-wracking moment was when we had to make the molten lava cakes. That was challenging because I knew the cake had to be near perfect and it looks easier to make than it actually is: Overall, I had such a good time throughout the entire programme.

 

TF: You've been hailed as one to watch by none other than Chef Gordon Ramsay! How was that for you?

 

JS: It was amazing! I look up to Chef Gordon Ramsay and it was a dream to cook before him and renowned pastry chef Christina Tosi. I wanted him to like my dishes and was always nervous at tasting and judging time. Both judges were absolutely wonderful to work with and I hope I get the opportunity, once more, to work with both.

Indeed, I hope to one day be where they are.

 

TF: What's next for Jasmine Stewart?

 

JS: Right now I'm just trying to finish the sixth grade and start my summer break. I hope to kick off my business and put out a cookbook and a food blog this summer, as well as keep perfecting my cooking skills. I would love to visit Jamaica and see my dad's home and experience the food and culture. I hope to also meet up one day with Oprah Winfrey, Beyoncé or Michelle Obama. How cool would that be?

I'm trying to absorb it all and figure out my next steps at the same time.

 

TF: What do you plan to do with your US$100,000 prize money?

 

JS: I plan to go to college when I finish high school. So I hope to use it for that. College is expensive. I will also do something for my family for all of their support.

 

TF: What was the reaction of your parents?

 

JS: My parents have been super-supportive and are very proud of me. They always tell me to just do my best, and I tried to do that throughout the competition.

 

TF: What has the reaction been like at school?

 

JS: I attend the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, GA. The reaction of the school has been wonderful!

 

TF: Do you have a preferred ingredient?

 

JS: I don't really have a preferred ingredient, but I do love fresh herbs in most of the dishes that I prepare. I enjoy the flavour they bring and they make my dishes better. My favourites are fresh parsley, cilantro, thyme, and rosemary. I also use quite a bit of fresh garlic, so my dad and I are growing some in our backyard garden.

 

TF: Were you able to prepare a meal for 100 homeless children, what would it be and why?

JS: That's a tough question. But if I had to prepare a meal for 100 homeless children I would just make sure it was balanced between something healthy for them but also very tasty and filling. I would want it to be special for them and easy to make again and again. I would love for them to have their pick of protein and sides and the best dessert I could make.

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