By Megan Forrester | Special to the NB Indy
For as long as he can remember, the clattering of pots and pans and the smell of home-cooked meals was the household environment for Newport Beach resident Alexander Weiss.
Before he knew it, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree and Weiss developed a similar passion for food, specifically baking.
When he was 10, Weiss tested his skills by creating a mature version of a lemonade stand, with homemade French pastries instead of sour beverages. He began selling them in the New York apartment complex where Weiss’ family lived.
“When I was younger, I spent so much time baking by myself in the kitchen and making things for my parents that they encouraged me when I was really young to start an unprofessional business,” Weiss said. “So I had this little business that I was running out of our apartment selling cupcakes and cookies and extravagant different pastries like eclairs and French things. I remember that way back when, that was kind of like my first crack at selling or feeding the public.”
That adoration of food blossomed through the years and at the age of 13, Weiss became a contestant on season one of Fox’s “MasterChef Junior” show in 2013. Despite cooking alongside teens his age and with the brutal critiques of renowned chef Gordon Ramsey, Weiss won the competition.
Now, nine years later, 22-year-old Weiss has returned to his roots to serve as a guest judge on the show.
Even though Weiss has since graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and interned at countless establishments including the James Beard award-winning restaurant The Barn at Blackberry Farm, he had the same nerves and jitters just like 13-year-old Alexander over a decade ago when he first made pistachio macaroons in front of the judges on national television.
“It just really reminded me of where I was in their position at that time,” Weiss said. “I remember how exciting and nerve-wracking and difficult it was and what a great experience to be a part of.”
With Weiss’ surprise appearance in episode 12 of season eight of MasterChef Junior, he said the memories of being a contestant rushed back to him immediately. One memory in particular that stands out in his mind is learning from Gordon Ramsey and soaking in the awe of his fame.
“I remember before filming the first episode when all the kids and the parents were together, all three of the judges walked into a break room,” Weiss said. “My mom immediately started crying when she saw (Ramsey) and other moms were crying. I was so excited. All these kids were cheering and we were like, ‘Wow, this is so cool.'”
Aside from his return to MasterChef Junior, Weiss has plunged into the realm of cooking for families as a private chef. These in-home culinary experiences consist of Weiss working directly with a family and curating meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day that cater to a families regimen, diet and allergy restrictions in a delectable and delicious way.
Whether it’s a peach barbeque pork tenderloin with a butternut squash purée for dinner or an avocado mousse served with candied pistachios or toasted coconut for dessert, Weiss expands his capabilities as a chef and each family expands their palate.
“It’s just been really exciting to work for myself and have more control over designing menus and complete control and being the only one to actually prepare and serve and plate and clean up all the foods,” Weiss said. “So I am taking this time to hone my skills on my own and see what I’m capable of without being under the eye of a chef.”
As for the future, Weiss is still unsure as to what the ultimate goal is for his career. But, he is certain of two things: his affection toward food and his appreciation for MasterChef Junior will always be present.
“I would love to do more judging on MasterChef Junior, especially after this guest appearance, it was so much fun,” Weiss said. “And it was a really good time being back. So it’d be cool to do some more of that.”
Although Weiss taught the competitors on his guest appearance how to properly filet a whole salmon, he still has more learning objectives for any future or aspiring chef. That advice is to simply establish confidence and never stop cooking. And if you need a self-esteem boost, Weiss said if he can go on national television as a teen and cook, then anyone else can too.
“Focusing on how to build your craft is what I’ve been doing this whole time,” Weiss said. “And then when it’s time to look for a new opportunity or a new job, then you have these past skills and these past achievements that you can use to keep on progressing. So my advice would be just continue working in restaurants, continue cooking at home, and keep cooking as much as you can because that’s what keeps it flowing.”
The latest season of MasterChef Junior is available to stream on Hulu and the Fox Network.