Most 11-year-olds would settle for a store-bought cake for their birthday. Not Josh Reisner. The Forest Hills sixth-grader insisted on making 96 cupcakes for his party this year, with a variation for the cake, frosting and topping flavors on each one.
“It took three days to make, but it was really good,” Josh said of his cupcake masterpiece, which included flavors such as candied lemon and pistachio sauce.
It’s that sort of culinary know-how that has landed him a spot on season two of “MasterChef Junior.” On the Fox reality show, which kicked off its new season on Nov. 7, young chefs, ages 8 to 13, compete for $100,000 and the “MasterChef Junior” title. Like the adult version, the contestants must create gourmet-style dishes in timed challenges. Their creations are then critiqued by judges Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliot.
Winning dishes on the first episode included chicken liver pâté on garlic crostini with brûléed pears and fish sauce chicken wings with a yuzu salad.
After thousands from across the country auditioned, Reisner was one of 16 chosen for the show.
“When I got called for the show I was so excited,” he said. “It’s so exciting because you know that out of all those kids you are one of those 16.”
Reisner, who was 10 when “MasterChef Junior” taped, has been refining his cooking skills since he was 4.
But his passion for food began when he was still a baby and would nibble on sushi, caviar, snails and oysters.
“He would just reach and take things from our plate and we would let him try whatever he wanted to try,” his father Brad said.
Starting out with cupcakes, pasta and pizza, Reisner soon graduated to cooking more difficult dishes, such as beef bourguignon and braised meat.
His father’s favorite is Reisner’s chili, which he makes with Coca-Cola, cocoa, a mix of special spices and no beans because it “ruins the texture.”
Though it takes time to whip up, Reisner, said he loves to make braised short ribs because “it‘s a dish that puts everything you put into it back.”
His mother Serena shares his interest in food, but admits she has let her son take over the kitchen in the past two years. He now cooks at least four days a week for the family, including breakfast on the weekend.
Reisner decided to test his culinary skill outside of his home kitchen after hearing about a casting call for “MasterChef Junior” through Young Chefs Academy in Forest Hills, where he has taken classes.
After making it onto the show, he watched the first season, but admits he was still nervous about judge Ramsay’s fiery reputation from his other reality shows.
His fears about Ramsay were dispelled, but the experience of cooking for the judges was intimidating at times.
“I hope I don’t go home because I mean that would just ruin my thoughts of Key lime pie and I would not feel comforted when I eat it,” he said during the second episode, when he landed in the bottom four during a citrus cream pie challenge.
Reisner, who wants to own a restaurant, and be a chef and food critic when he grows up, said he gained confidence from being on the show, and has learned how to accept criticism and take more chances.
“It’s so much pressure, but it’s really a great experience,” he said. “I would have done it a million more times.”
Watch Reisner on the fourth episode of “MasterChef Junior” on Tuesday, Nov. 25, at 8 p.m. on Fox to see if he makes it past the top eight.