Chef in the Making: Logan Guleff
The recent winner of MasterChef Junior, Logan Guleff, is just getting started
Logan Guleff is the winner of FOX’s reality TV show, MasterChef Junior 2. He is 12 years old and lives in Midtown with his parents, Tom and Kim. Logan is homeschooled, and his mom considers cooking to be part of his curriculum. “He incorporates math, the creative process, and note-taking,” Kim explains. One day each week, Logan is allowed to work in the kitchen with no expectations. He doesn’t use recipes. He experiments; therefore the note-taking is important. Kim says he comes up with some crazy stuff, and while it isn’t always good, “When it’s a hit, it’s a hit.”
The top two finalists in MasterChef Junior 2 won Samsung ShowCase refrigerators. Logan let us come take a peek inside of his.
What is the first thing you remember cooking?
Morning coffee for my mom. Espresso.
What about food?
Pigs in a blanket.
What was your first food-related job? Wait, you are too young to work. What was the first food contest you entered?
Jif’s “Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich” when I was 9. My Chomp Burger, an Asian-inspired peanut-butter turkey burger with peanut-butter broccoli slaw and apple, made the top five. I won $2,500 and a free trip to New York. The next year I entered the “Healthy Lunchtime Challenge,” sponsored by first lady Michelle Obama and Epicurious, and my tuna and quinoa salad served in redpepper boats earned me a seat at the first-ever Kids’ State Dinner at the White House.
What is your “default” thing to cook when you’re hungry and need to make something fast?
Ramen. But it depends on how fast.
[Kim notes that he will often add soft-boiled eggs, and he makes his own dashi, a Japanese broth.]
Any memorable mishaps in the kitchen?
[Kim is cracking up.]
Okay, that’s a lie. None that I want to share.
[Kim says there have been several kitchen fires and some really disgusting food. “I mean, really, really, really bad,” she says. Of note is the egg poached in lemon soda. “The egg white was good, but the yolk was disgusting.”]
Name any ingredients that you couldn’t live without.
Salt and pepper.
Let’s see, what else? Seasonings? Fresh thyme. I use thyme all the time. [Sheepishly smiles at his pun.]
What’s your favorite cooking indulgence?
[Kim makes sure he knows what “indulgence” means.]
My ice-cream maker. And my espresso maker in the dining room. (It doesn’t fit in the kitchen.) I have tons of small appliances.
What’s your favorite thing to do in the kitchen?
I like the creative aspect of it. I really like creating spice blends.
Name your least favorite thing to do in the kitchen.
Cleaning up. As soon as I’m done, I don’t want to clean up.
[Kim says, “He just wants to leave it and go play video games.]
Eventually it gets cleaned up.
Any favorite kitchen tools?
[Big grin.] The knife. I like knives. [He starts digging through drawers looking for his “big” knife.] I call this my sword. It’s huge and great for cutting fish. It’s made from Japanese high-carbon steel. I have a smaller one that I use for cutting everything else. My parents bought it for me after I won.
I realize this is a silly question, but do you ever watch any cooking shows on TV?
I watch a lot of MasterChef and MasterChef Junior. I also like The Mind of a Chef with David Chang, Lidia’s Italy on PBS, and whatever is on Netflix.
Who does the shopping?
Mom. Sometimes I go with her.
[Kim says it is way too expensive to take Logan with her every time.]
How much influence do you have on the shopping list?
I only get special stuff when I go with her. When we go to the Cordova Farmers’ Market, I like to get ramen (because they have a bigger selection), Japanese candy-making kits, whole fish (to practice cutting), seaweed, tapioca pearls — things like that.
[Kim adds that she often brings home cool ingredients for Logan to experiment with.]
Let’s look in your fancy new fridge…
I have a special foodie drawer, with Benton’s bacon, truffle salt, special cheeses, and some teas. I also have my purple [grape] juice.
What condiments are in there?
Homemade mustard, fish sauce, anchovy sauce, ponzu, rose water, and sriracha.
Fruits and vegetables in your fridge?
[He reaches in, grabs a bag of radishes, and says, “Wait, I better hide this Kroger bag.”] Radishes, green pepper, pears, old mushrooms [Kim, who is Italian, says they are better that way], and Meyer lemons.
Most embarrassing thing in the fridge?
[He is literally blushing.] The dead lemon. [He points and then hangs his head.]
What’s in the freezer?
Homemade ice cream — Arabic coffee-flavored with cardamom — cheap bacon, meat stuff, frozen samosas, Totino’s pizza rolls, sousvide mackerel, and a lobster tail from “Seafood Day” on my YouTube channel.
Show us what’s in the pantry.
[Kim is really anxious about us looking in the pantry. She carefully opens the doors and starts naming things. “Kitty treats, cookies, weird-ass stuff he forces me to buy…Indian ramen, Arabic cookies, tapioca pearls, noodles, Arborio rice, tiny popcorn, black rice.”] [Logan has his own pantry, mostly for storing small appliances.] I have my molecular gastronomy kit, a couple of blow torches, special plates and cups for plating, instant dashi for when I’m lazy, and other weird stuff.
[Kim says Logan is taking over more and more of her kitchen and that the house was not designed for small appliance collectors.]
Favorite thing your mom or grandmother cooked when you were a kid? Or, I guess, cooks now? Your dad maybe?
Dad buys Elwood’s take-out really well.
My mom’s chicken soup with pastina — tiny pasta stars we buy in New York.
What do you want to do next?
I have my own YouTube channel now, and I’m listed with the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau as a speaker. I’ve done some demos at the library, and I get to make celebrity appearances as the winner of MasterChef Junior 2.
I’m opening an espresso stand this summer.
[Kim says she wants him to follow his dreams, be passionate, and give back. She’s proud no matter what.]