Turns out, Food Network's Chopped Teen Tournament is teeming with Philly area high schoolers.
The five-part series features 16 culinary whiz kids who are given ingredients and are asked to make magic, just as pro chefs do ordinarily on the show.
Winners from each episode will head to the finale on Aug. 12, where the winner gets $25,000 and a culinary school scholarship.
On last night's premiere, the winner was Jason Khayin of Holland, Bucks County, who at 14 (and an incoming freshman at Council Rock South) is among the show's youngest contestants. But not its least passionate about cooking. His mission this summer is to land a restaurant job or internship.
Though his dream is to be a chef/restaurateur, he wants to snag a college business degree first. "Owning a restaurant, you have to know business," he said in a phone chat today.
Jason says he leads a "normal life" for a 14-year-old - though what normal 14-year-old could conjure up the French-fried green bean hash with roasted mahi mahi that he made for the judges.
He cooks around the house for his parents, who own a children's-clothing store at Franklin Mills Mall and keep retailers' hours. Like so many kids, he learned about food and cooking not only from his mother and grandmother but from watching TV.
He returns for the show's finale on Aug. 12.
Alas, last night's premiere was not a win for Alexandria Brooks, 16, of Voorhees, knocked out after the appetizer. Alexandria has been cooking for seven or eight years. At 8, she was allowed to solo and made a mac and cheese that was "far from traditional." It had heavy cream, penne pasta, chopped ham, parmesan, mozzarella and white cheeses - no cheddar. As Brooks enters 11th grade at Eastern Regional, she has a food blog, YouTube channel and is a teen contributor for Miss Moxie online magazine. This summer, she is working at Kingside restaurant in Manhattan doing prep and utility work. Hmm. Its chef, Marc Murphy, was a judge on her episode.
Dante Foggy, 17, of Burlington Township, gets his moment in the spotlight on July 22. He said he also started cooking young with his grandparents and mom. He knew back then that cooking was his future. "It's something I'm really good at," he said, matter-of-factly. "I'm not going to be a doctor or a lawyer. I’m going to be a chef." He will be a senior this year at Burlington County Institute of Technology and hopes to attend Johnson & Wales. His show had shrimp and jalapeños in the appetizer round, and frog legs for the entree. "I came in there confident," he said. "I figured, if I got this far, it was OK. There's not many people who can say they were in high school and got to compete on national TV."
Also competing (on July 29) is Brandon Medley of Sewell. Food Network said it had no bio information.