At just 10 years old, Brooklyn’s Callum McGeory is already eyeing a culinary career — and his skills have garnered him television attention.
The Park Slope native, who’s been cooking with his grandpa since age four, makes his TV debut this month on the eighth season of Food Network’s "Chopped Junior," a spinoff of the culinary competition series "Chopped."
“I’ve been watching ‘Chopped’ probably the same amount of time I’ve been cooking,” he says. “I remember watching ‘Chopped’ in my grandma’s living room.”
On July 16, viewers will see Callum compete against three other junior chefs for a $10,000 prize and a special "Chopped Junior" chef coat in an episode titled, "Slime the Competition!"
"Chopped Junior" competitors have 30 minutes to cook during three rounds and to add to the pressure, they must incorporate mystery ingredients into each of their dishes. One young chef is "chopped" at the end of each round by a panel of three judges, including celebrity chefs Maneet Chauhan, Scott Conant, and special guest judge Clinton Kelly. The result is a head-to-head dessert battle between two contestants to determine the episode’s champion.
Callum can’t remember a time when he wasn’t in the kitchen. His grandfather began teaching him early on, and he says he also learned from watching his mom in the kitchen.
“It’s really fun to cook with [my grandpa] because he’s really good at cooking and he shows me all these tips,” Callum says. “He taught me how to dice vegetables, which is really a good skill to have. I’d say I can cut things pretty fast.”
To out-cook his opponents, Callum will have to incorporate the following surprise ingredients into his dishes: alligator tenderloin for the appetizer, edible slime for the entree, and milk and cereal for the dessert round.
While most 10-year-olds would waiver at the notion of cooking with alligator tenderloin, Callum teases that he remained calm in the appetizer round of the "Chopped" episode when he pulled this ingredient out of the infamous mystery basket. In fact, he’d tasted it before and knew that he could turn the chicken-like gator into palatable nuggets.
When he’s older, Callum hopes to use his skills to open a restaurant of his own, which he says will be Italian-American fusion.
“I’d want to start by working at someone else’s [restaurant] and learn from them,” Callum says. “Then, I would want to open up my own restaurant.”
Callum’s mom broke the news that he’d made it on the show after applying, but he’s murky on who he told next. Probably his dad or brother, he says.
“I was super excited, like jumping up and down screaming,” Callum says. “I got to cook in front of really good chefs.”
Callum enjoyed mingling with competitors, meeting the famous judges, and hanging out with the show’s host, Ted Allen, but what really stood out to him was the "Chopped" kitchen.
“[The kitchen] was really nice and everything was where it was supposed to be, so you were two steps away from the oven and then your countertop was right there,” Callum says. “The pantry had so much stuff in it, like everything you would want to cook with.”
Callum plans to watch the episode with his family. They are all excited to see where his culinary chops take him, his grandpa in particular.
“[My grandpa] was pretty happy for me and also proud,” Callum says. “He said that I was becoming a good chef.”
On TV: The "Slime the Competition!" episode of "Chopped Junior," featuring Brooklyn’s Callum McGeory, airs Tuesday, July 16 at 9 p.m. on the Food Network.