Aidan Blumsack, an 11-year-old from Charlotte, is like most kids his age – he’s an enthusiastic Harry Potter fan and loves laughing along with Adam Sandler movies. But unlike most of his friends and classmates, he spends lots of time thinking up new recipes and preparing them in the family kitchen.
His knack for culinary creativity has earned him a spot this Tuesday on Food Network’s “Chopped Jr.,” TV show, a dream come true for the young chef.
The program, which airs on the Food Network Tuesdays at 8/7c, features four contestants all hoping to avoid getting eliminated. Like its parent show “Chopped,” the goal is to last until the very end to win $10,000.
The main difference between the two shows is that some of the chefs on “Chopped Jr.” have a difficult time seeing over the kitchen counter – their ages range from 9 to 15.
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Laurie Blumsack, Aidan’s mom, said his passion for cooking is curious because she isn’t really sure where he got it. She admitted that cooking is sometimes stressful for her, since her 13-year-old son Connor has a lot of food allergies.
“I don’t like to cook at all, really,” she said. “He has far surpassed my capabilities. He started cooking better than me when he was six or seven.”
She said he is the family’s weekend chef. “I tell him, ‘You’re always welcome to live near me and cook.’”
Blumsack, a rising sixth grader at Socrates Academy charter school in Charlotte, loves seafood and said his favorite thing to cook is salmon, though he has a variety of interests in the kitchen. “Whatever my mom says for me to cook, I’ll cook it. It’s how we roll,” he said. To him, cooking is a way to calm down and exercise his creativity.
The contestants are required to cook with obscure ingredients pulled from “mystery baskets,” creating a challenge for contestants. They are given 30 minutes to create each dish, the first round being an appetizer, then dinner and dessert. After each course, one contestant gets chopped until only the winner is left.
Blumsack said he really started to recognize his passion at a Johnson & Wales cooking camp last summer. He said the program gave him important skills, and he enjoyed getting to learn from experienced chefs.
He plans to return to camp this summer after his Food Network debut. To him, the best part of being on the show was seeing it up close, along with meeting famous chefs. “My favorite part was probably seeing the set,” he said. “It’s a lot smaller, and a lot different.”
But Blumsack said the attention is getting a little annoying. “Now everybody says, ‘Oh, he’s that “Chopped Jr.” kid,” he said, adding that he wouldn’t want to have his own show in the future.
Blumsack said he hopes to be a well-known chef after going to college and then attending Johnson & Wales University.
For other kids who have big dreams like himself, he thinks that having strength in numbers is most important. “Don’t do it alone,” he said. “My family, friends and my babysitter helped a lot. Have a group of people with different types of skills.”
Cole: 704-358-5357; @kianamcole