Meet Mark from #MasterChefJunior

Mark from Master Chef JuniorWho or what was your inspiration to start cooking?

My inspiration really started when I was little helping my grandmothers bake. I would grab an egg out of the fridge or pour in flour. Then I would claim that batch of cookies as my very own. It morphed into more than that when I was 7 or 8 when my mom forced me to go to a cooking class and my passion for cooking exploded.

At what age did you start cooking? What was your initial experience like?

I started helping back when I was 2 or 3, but I started cooking when I was 7 or 8. I started preparing serious dishes when I was about 10. I really enjoyed seeing the look on my mom’s face one night when I made a really simple dinner. It was very rewarding.

Why did you want to be on MasterChef Junior?

The reason I wanted to be on MasterChef Junior was because I enjoy showing the world my cooking skills. Cooking is my passion. Cooking itself is a gift, but I enjoy entertaining other people with my skill set.

What did you most enjoy about being on the show?

My favorite thing on the show was probably the team challenges, because those were very difficult for me as an individual. I am very inclined to lead, but I learned to trust in my captain. The cooking itself was very fun. Closely followed to that is meeting all my friends. I expect Adam and I to be long-time friends and fellow chefs.

What is it like cooking for Gordon Ramsay? What was the best advice he gave you?

Cooking for Chef Ramsay was almost magical. He was a larger-than-life figure to me. He definitely had a passion for cooking that was very evident. The best advice he gave me was to put yourself on a plate. I like to try out new things, but in the end, I still want to cook like myself.

What’s is your signature dish?

My signature dish is homemade donuts.

Where do the ideas for your dishes come from?

Most of the ideas for my dishes are inspired by other dishes I see chefs cook. I learn how to make them then I put my own twist on them.

If you could create a challenge for Master Chef Junior, what would it be?

I would probably create a tag-team challenge with two chefs on a team who each are given their own mystery ingredient. Neither chef could communicate with each other what they were cooking, but they had to work together to make a dish with those ingredients and items from the MasterChef pantry.

Do you want to someday own your own restaurant and if so, what kind of food would you serve?

I would like to own multiple restaurants, but if I could only choose one cuisine, it would be elevated Southern food with French influences.

What was the most difficult challenge in the MasterChef Junior kitchen?

The most difficult challenge for myself in the MasterChef Junior kitchen was probably the Beef Wellington challenge. I like to think of myself as a good chef, and I enjoy a good challenge, but I didn’t have enough finesse for that challenge. At this time, my skills in that field need to keep growing, but I always enjoy a good challenge, and that was one of the more fun challenges, too.

Outside of the show, what kinds of fun activities did you do with the other contestants?

One of my favorite activities to do outside the show with my friends was to swim in the hotel pool.

What chef do you most want to cook with and why?

In the MasterChef Junior kitchen, I would probably want to work with Adam the most, because we communicate with each other very well. I’m a very strong leader, but lack in some skill sets. Adam is a very good do-er, and he excels in the areas that I am not as proficient at. Outside the MasterChef kitchen, I would like to cook with Chef Ramsay again so I can learn some more cooking tips.

If you was a judge on MasterChef Junior, what would you look for in a winning dish?

If I was a judge in MasterChef Junior, the first thing I would look for are color and presentation. Throughout the competition, I do not feel that I presented the most visually pleasing dishes I have put out. As a chef, I was disappointed with myself. It is 100 percent true that you eat with your eyes first. After color and presentation, it would be followed up very closely by taste.

Besides cooking, what other things do you like to do?

Besides cooking, I really enjoying playing football, hanging out with friends and hunting during deer season.

How did you feel about watching yourself on TV?

It is very nostalgic seeing myself on TV. When I see a mistake, I really want to correct myself, but then I know I can’t. It’s also very different seeing yourself as an audience member instead of being in charge of what you do.

Would you ever star in your own cooking show?

I think it would be fun to star in my own cooking show, but I know it’s not a very practical dream. I definitely enjoy sharing my passion with others, but I feel that I can do an even better job through my food, not just people watching me.

What lesson did you take away from Master Chef Junior?

Not to be full of yourself. This was especially evident on the Beef Wellington challenge. I was very confident that I was going to cook my steak correctly before the challenge. But after seeing my results, I knew that I didn’t do as well as I should have and I deserved to go home. Even though it’s sad, I’m glad that I learned that lesson, and I will move on and face another hurdle.

Do you have any advice or tips for the remaining junior chefs in the competition?

My biggest and best advice to the remaining chefs is to be confident in yourselves. You might be feeling sick, you might be feeling sad, you might not have the best looking dish, but if you’re confident in yourself, there should be no way you will have a bad dish. You’re in the top 8 of MCJ, for Pete’s sake.