With the reveal of MasterChef Jr. final just days away, Logan Guleff, his mom Kim, and I meet up at Muddy’s Grind House on Cooper to talk about food and this 12-year-old’s latest adventures — putting his cooking skills to the test on FOX’s popular reality TV show. During this junior chef competition, 16 kids match wits by completing culinary challenges under the watchful eyes of three chef judges to advance to the finals.
I recognize Logan immediately, though it’s not because he’s wearing his signature bowtie. It’s those dark eyes that flash under a mop of blonde hair and his mischievous smile, like he knows something we don’t. And of course, today, he does.
Logan had already been dubbed the grand-prize winner of MasterChef Jr. (season 2), beating out Samuel, the other popular semi-finalist, and earning $100,000. He and his mom spent seven weeks out in Los Angeles this fall taping the show. But of course, they couldn’t share their exciting news until it aired.
It’s not easy keeping a big secret like that. But keep it they did.
Logan particularly enjoyed getting to meet his idol, chef Gordon Ramsay. In one segment, Ramsay even showed his more tender side. When Logan’s flank steak fell short and he lost his composure, Ramsay consoled him with a hug. “I’m very much a perfectionist,” Logan admits. Was it nerve-wracking cooking under all that pressure?
“Not really. Even when you’re messing in the kitchen, there’s still the tick-tock of the clock. You don’t have all day to cook dinner!” he says with a laugh.
While cooking is clearly Logan’s passion, it isn’t the sum total of this tween’s life. On the day we talk, he’d just come back from a five-mile hike with his Boy Scout troop. As a Tenderfoot, he enjoys scouting, as well as playing video games like Minecraft, and scaling the climbing wall at Bridges. But it’s evident these activities don’t really feed his passion the way cooking does.
So how did he become so good? In a word: Practice. Logan started by making pasta with his mom at age 4. Later, he watched cooking videos on Youtube and Kim gave him the freedom to experiment. “Most of cooking comes from being inventive,” Logan says. “I don’t like to bake. You have to be more exact. You mess up your measurements and it’s all over. I like improvising.” His eagerness to experiment eventually led to a spice rub mix Logan made and which he now sells on his website. When I ask him what’s in it, he shushes me, saying, “It’s a secret.”
Since Kim homeschools and Logan didn’t like to write, they started a food blog, Order Up! With Logan, when he was 8. They would visit a local restaurant and Logan would write about what he ordered. Over time, the blog led him into the kitchens of restaurants, where he got to meet the chefs and talk about their cooking styles. Ben Smith at Tsunami, in particular, has been influential.
Then Logan began making his own recipes and entering contests. His Chomp Burger, an Asian-inspired turkey burger with broccoli slaw won Jif’s Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest. The grand prize was a trip to New York and $2,500.
“You usually have to figure out what the recipe wants to do, what is the point. Is the goal to use peanut butter to make something delicious? Or is it to have dinner in 10 minutes?” he says.
Several months later, his cooking expertise led to the White House. As the Tennessee champion of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, sponsored by First Lady Michelle Obama, Logan prepared Tuna Schooner. It was among 54 winning recipes. He and his mom dined at the White House and even shook hands with the president and first lady. “That was a real highlight,” says Kim.
So what does the future hold? Well, Logan is only 12, so school is important. But who knows, you may one day be dining at his restaurant, where you can sample his latest experiment. For now, you can follow his adventures at orderupwithlogan.blogspot.com.