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Local 12-year-old will be on MasterChef Junior Nov. 4 

Daniel Lewis Middle School 8th grader has passion for cooking

MasterChef Junior

Mitchell Vasquez, 12, is a contestant on MasterChef Junior, which premieres on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

MasterChef Junior Season 2 with Chef Gordon Ramsay will include 12-year-old Mitchell Vasquez of Paso Robles. The Daniel Lewis Middle School eighth grader was asked to be on the show after he shared a YouTube cooking video he appeared in when he was 8 or 9. He was chosen as one of 16 contestants between 8 and 13 years of age. The season that Vasquez appears in premieres on Tuesday, Nov. 4 at 8 p.m. on FOX.

Ramsay is joined by restaurateur and winemaker Joe Bastianich and acclaimed chef Graham Elliot on the MasterChef Junior judging panel. The contestants are given a series of challenges to showcase their culinary abilities and passion for food.

“Surprisingly, he was pretty cool,” Vasquez said of Ramsay, who’s famed for explosive episodes on his reality shows. He added that Ramsay kept them on their toes, but that he learned a lot from the feedback the judges gave as they tasted each dish.

Vasquez said he started cooking because a friend of his — Bailey — loved to cook. His passion for cooking was ignited when Bailey, who later passed away from Leukemia, encouraged a love for cooking in her friends. Cooking, Vasquez said, is in part a way of honoring his late friend.

In addition to cooking, Vasquez has a passion for the game of soccer. His dream is to be a professional soccer player and own several restaurants. He has gotten direction in cooking from friend Marc LeDuc, the executive chef at Tobin James Cellars.

“It was good, really awesome,” Vasquez said of the experience. He spent nearly a month this past spring filming for the season. His mother said that part of it coincided with spring break, so he missed fewer days of school than he would have otherwise. Though, he did have school while on set. He said that the school work went by faster knowing that he’d be cooking soon for some of the best chefs.

Vasquez’s signature dish is seared scallops over mashed potatoes with a tomato and green bean salad.

“I think he chose scallops because it’s one of my favorite things,” Vasquez’s mom, Regina, said. “And he does them perfectly, if I may say so.”

Vasquez said he likes to cook them because if they are seared correctly, they are crispy on both sides and he hates slimy scallops. He also likes to cook carne asada on the grill and pork, but he said it really depends on the season.

Vasquez’s family and friends will celebrate the premiere of MasterChef Junior on Tuesday by gathering at Downtown Brew in Paso Robles, which has agreed to feature the show on several televisions that night. For more information or to see clips, go to Master Chef Junior’s website.


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