The Making of a MasterChef: Logan Guleff

This 15-year-old wowed on-screen when he won MasterChef Junior in 2014. He was only just beginning.

Most teenagers aren’t terrible at cooking – surely, they can whip up a mean Wacky Mac or an elaborate peanut butter à la jelly. Then there’s Logan Guleff. It may be obvious that one doesn’t win MasterChef Junior by frying an egg well, but Logan got his start in the kitchen at the age of 2(!). Yes, as a toddler he could mix up cornbread and prepare pigs in a blanket. To put it simply: he’s quite the culinary prodigy.

However, talent alone is rarely enough. When he saw his dad watching the first season of MasterChef Junior one night, Logan remarked “I can win that.” It was this belief and determination that carried him through the 8 hour-drive to the audition in Texas and eventually throughout the intense competition until he emerged as the winner.

It’s been an exhilarating ride since: Logan has been named one of the Most Influential Teens by Time Magazine; he’s cooked for presidents and pre-Oscar parties, judged chef competitions in India, and he still concocts the best burger ever.

We caught up with Logan to discuss his new graphic novel adventure cookbook, if he feels like he’s ever missed out on traditional teen experiences, and whether he likes onions.

Here’s what the youngest rising star in the culinary world had to share:

1. What is your background?

I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. I don’t really remember when I started cooking, seems I’ve always been cooking. The kitchen is the heart of our house and I love it. At 2 I could make coffee, pigs in a blanket, and mix up cornbread, by age 4, I was mastering pasta and baking bread.

I had a special set of knives growing up that would not cut me, and I would stand on a long piano bench in the kitchen so I could cook. I created my first complete recipe at age 8 and that’s when the fun started!

2. How did you audition for MasterChef Junior?

That’s a funny story: my Dad loves reality TV, and he was watching MasterChef Jr Season 1, and I asked him to turn it off. He was shocked, because Chef Ramsay is my favorite chef to watch, so he asked why – I answered, “I can win that show.” Then one day he brought home the application papers for the show and I filled them out.

The closest audition site was eight hours from our home in Memphis, so he drove me to Dallas, Texas to audition. Before long we were on our way to Hollywood to film. I had no clue just how good everyone would be, it was really crazy!

masterchefbowtie
12-year-old Logan on set of MasterChef Junior

3. You were the winner of MasterChef Junior, season 2! What was the entire experience like?

It was challenging. The entire experience is just so surreal to a regular kid from the middle of the U.S. I mean I knew I could cook, and I knew a lot about food, but I had never eaten high-end food and we have no chefs or food professionals to lean on in my family.  My favorite day was earning my chef coat and cooking in the pop-up restaurant in Malibu. I can say I cooked the line with Chef Ramsay.  I loved it! I think that is when my dream came true. I would do it again anytime. I love that pressure of working the line the most!

Season 2 Winner
The moment of glory

4. Did you ever feel like you were missing out on traditional teen experiences because you were focusing on your culinary career?

Yes, to be honest I do. My experience has taken me all over the world but I can be awkward as heck in a group. Gordon Ramsay always called me quirky, and I guess I still am. But I would not change it for anything. I love it.

5. You’ve had some pretty incredible career milestones: visiting former President Obama at the White House, making Time Magazine’s Top Teen list, judging the International Young Chef Olympiad in India and becoming a James Beard winner. Which moment do you treasure the most?

I know I have had some crazy experiences.

A kid from not far-removed immigrants eating in the White House, traveling across the world to India for a chef competition as a judge, being the youngest to cook at the James Beard House, cooking for celebrities, appearing on the Today show, cooking for a pre-Oscar event…

I think that all these events, they add flavor to me! It deepens my understanding of the world and blesses me with more unique views. This makes me a better chef and hopefully a better person.

I can’t pick one as the best… I am just so fortunate to be able to follow my passion and to be rewarded for it.

Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 9.09.03 AM
The James Beard Blended Burger winner

6. Which tips would you give to aspiring young chefs?

Start a flavor journal, write things down, cooking isn’t about following recipes it’s about understanding flavor. Think not about being famous with food, but how you can share an authentic experience through a meal.

7. What is the key to success?

I hope there are a lot of keys, because you have to go through a lot of doors. But, believe in yourself and never stop learning!

Logan 5

8. What are some things you’re excited about right now?

Well I just released my first book with a new concept – a graphic novel adventure cookbook.  I created the book to help kids learn to dream, work like a team, and of course learn to cook like a chef. There aren’t pages of recipes, but pages of information on how to do one or two skills the best way.  I hope they can learn to think of food like I do, and that they really love it!

I plan to have a downloadable series of recipes to go with it, out soon.  It was a blast to make, we learned so much and had a great team of artists!

Cooking Dreams Cookbook
Logan’s cookbook can be purchased for $19.95 here

Otherwise, I am learning to drive soon – I can’t wait! It is also time to think about college, but I guess I am like every other teen, and just don’t have a plan yet.

 

Some facts about Logan:

  • He really hates onions.
  • His inspiration? “Chef Ramsay and Chef Graham Elliot, of course, but I have some great local chefs that work with me, and I have the amazing fans and friends that support me! I love meeting them – they are all around the world and it just blows me away.”
  • Best advice he’s ever received? “Chef Nobu told me, ‘The president makes important decisions every day, but I have more power – the power to make people happy!’ I love that – share happiness with food, share life with food!”
  • One talent he’d most like to have is “singing.”
  • The most memorable potato he’s ever had? “It was a velvet potato in Ireland, it is more of a species than a cook style – best potato ever! And potato pancakes are my favorite style of cooked potatoes.”

Follow Logan at @logan.jr.chef

 

Cover photo shot by Rena Knopf Photography

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