A Port Washington teenager is the latest contestant to represent Long Island on Fox TV’s “MasterChef Junior” — Tal Schulmiller, 14, will compete for the trophy and $100,000 prize during the show’s seventh season, which debuts March 5.
“One of the most important things to have in a kitchen is someone to tell you what you’re doing wrong. I can’t think of a better person to tell you what you’re doing wrong than Gordon Ramsay,” Schulmiller says. The famed chef critiques the 24 young wannabes vying for the MasterChef Junior title.
Schulmiller’s interest in cooking began when he was a young child helping his grandmother to make matzo ball soup, standing on a chair in the kitchen because he was too short to reach the stove. He basically taught himself to cook, says his father, Eric, who is the cantor at the Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore in Manhasset. “As is typical with Gen Z kids, a lot of it came from the internet,” Schulmiller says. “He would come home from school, and he would get a raw chicken, and he would just practice cutting up a chicken.”
Tal has also always been an adventurous eater, his dad says. He has the Michelin app on his phone, and for his bar mitzvah gift he requested a lunch at the famed French restaurant Le Bernardin in Manhattan.
Tal’s signature dish is kombu-cured salmon with a miso beurre-blanc and yuzu kosho (Japanese white wine grape). “One of my dishes I know I can pull off kind of easily is shrimp and grits,” he says. “It’s delicious. It’s just a perfect dish in my mind.”
The contestants on this season will be tasked with making a meal for 51 circus performers, pulling a live lobster out of a tank to prepare and more. On the first episode, which Tal says he and other contestants plan to gather in Westchester to watch together, they’ll have to create a breakfast and a school lunch.
Tal isn’t allowed to say how far he’ll progress on the season, which taped previously.
Does he have any cooking challenges that might sink him? Jokes Dad: “He’s not really so adept yet at the washing dishes part of the experience.”