Junior chefs to display skills at Niswonger show

VAN WERT — From the challenge of beating Bobby Flay to the quirkiness of “Guys Grocery Games,” cooking shows are prevalent across the television spectrum.

One of the more popular and longest-running of those shows is MasterChef Junior, which airs each Thursday from 8-9 p.m. on the FOX network. The cooking competition that features young chefs between the ages of 8-13 premiered on Fox in September of 2013.

The show is based on the FOX hit MasterChef, featuring Gordon Ramsay.

Cast members from the show’s recently-completed season eight kicked off a nationwide tour earlier this month that will span more than 25 cities, from Sioux City, Iowa, to Providence, Rhode Island.

Among those stops is a visit to the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Van Wert on Tuesday, Sept. 27. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the recipe for a good time will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Grayson, one of the show’s four cast members, talked with The Lima News on the morning after a show in Burnsville, Minnesota. It was the second stop on the tour and the 14-year-old from Austin, Texas, said he’s enjoying the experience.

“It’s been really fun. I’m really anxious to meet people in the other cities of the tour,” he said. “I enjoy meeting people, especially kids my own age who love to cook as much as I do.”

Grayson said he is a “mostly self-taught” chef, having learned from prominent chefs via cookbooks and cooking shows.

“I have always enjoyed tasting and cooking new food and I love to experiment with new ingredients. In the MasterChef Junior kitchen I learned that taking risks can be scary but also very fun and rewarding. I also learned so much about the importance of teamwork,” he said.

The casts members will take to the stage in head-to-head cooking demonstrations and fun challenges certain to delight audience members of all ages, according to Karen Tallier, president and owner of Loudmouth Entertainment.

Grayson said the tour has already resulted in one humorous moment.

Several audience members are selected at each show to serve as judges for the night. “Last night (in Minnesota) one kid tasted our scallop appetizer and she spit out every bit of it because she doesn’t like scallops,” Grayson laughed.

Joining Grayson on stage in Van Wert will be three fellow season eight cast members.

Liya, 13, from Scarsdale, New York, started cooking when she was 7 years old.

“Since my parents own two restaurants I’ve always been in the kitchen. The MasterChef Junior Kitchen has taught me a lot of stuff, but one is to be patient and never worry if you mess up. Everyone makes mistakes.”

Liya was the season eight winner.

Molly, 14, from Springfield, Missouri, has been cooking competitively since she was 5.

“In the MasterChef Junior kitchen I learned so many new techniques, like how to flambé, fillet a salmon and improve my baking skills. I’m looking forward to traveling to places I haven’t been before, cooking in front of a live audience and reuniting with my friends,” she said

A’Dan, 13, started cooking at an early age with his dad. “I’m looking forward to meeting kids in different states and sharing my culinary skills,” he said.

Quincy Thompson, marketing director for Van Wert Live, said the 90-minute show is geared toward a crowd that is slightly younger than typical Niswonger patrons.

“We’re trying to be family-friendly, and because the performance is on a school night the show will start a little earlier than normal, at 6:30 p.m. It’s an economical night of entertainment, with tickets as low as $19,” Thompson said.

A VIP meet-and-greet is available, at an additional cost, where participants will be able to get autographs and talk with the young chefs. Visit VanWertLive.com for more information.


What: MasterChef Junior Live tour

When: Tuesday, Sept. 27. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.; show begins at 6:30 p.m.

Where: Niswonger Performing Arts Center, 10700 state Route 118, Van Wert

Cost: Tickets start at $19