The grasshoppers were a “big shock” — having to work them into a dessert might have shaken even an experienced chef. But 10-year-old Lauryn Mitchell of Center Moriches baked grasshopper cookies with a side of strawberry crème fraiche and took the $10,000 prize on Tuesday night’s episode of The Food Network’s “Chopped Junior.”
“It was kind of nerve-wracking. I’m not used to eating bugs. It was just gross,” the rising fifth-grader said Tuesday night after the show. “I still have the taste in my mouth.”
But it was worth it to be crowned winner of “Chopped Junior.” “I never had $10,000 before,” she said in the finale. Earlier in the show, she had said she would use half the prize to start a family cooking and baking business. “Because we could make a kick-butt business,” she said.
Lauryn is following in the footsteps of her older sister, Kayla, 13, who appeared last year on Fox’s “MasterChef Jr.” but was eliminated in the sixth of eight episodes. The two often cook together. “Because she’s so much younger than me, we get into these silly arguments all the time,” Kayla said. “But when we’re in the kitchen, magic happens.”
“I want to make her proud today,” Lauryn said on the air.
The hourlong Food Network show features four young contestants each week who are eliminated one by one in three rounds — appetizer, entrée and dessert — to leave one champion. The children have to open a basket in each round and are required to use those ingredients in the dish. Lauryn competed with kids from Michigan, New Jersey and North Carolina. Tuesday night’s judges included actress Jennie Garth, chef Marc Murphy and restaurateur Roble Ali. The show is hosted by Ted Allen.
The theme of Tuesday night’s episode was “summer.” The appetizer round focused on bison burgers. The focus of the entrée round was Norwegian cod. Lauryn prepared spiced cod – even though she couldn’t pronounce one of the spices she chose, stumbling on the pronunciation of Hungarian in the Hungarian paprika. In the dessert segment Lauryn showed her largesse by giving some of her extra strawberries to her adversary — they had to be incorporated into the dessert along with the grasshoppers — after her final opponent burned all of hers.
Lauryn’s family hosted a viewing party Tuesday night at her home, and the living room filled with friends and family burst into applause when Lauryn won. She’d had to keep the results secret since February, when the show taped in Manhattan.
“I’m so relieved we can finally talk about it,” said mom Michelle, 43.
Lauryn definitely made sister Kayla proud. “Obviously,” Kayla said. “Just being on the show was enough to make me proud. Winning was the icing on the cake.”