Montco teen is a 'Chopped' winner
To a 15-year-old, a hunk of raw tuna looked disgusting. Yet Mikey makes it work.
Lower Gwynedd's Mikey Robins is the youngest winner of the Food Network show Chopped.
He's 15 now, and was 14 last fall when he and three other teens competed for the chance to win $10,000 in this special edition.
The episode was shown Tuesday night, and the Robins family invited a hundred or so friends and family members to watch the action on a big screen set up by the pool. A Jack & Jill ice cream truck was parked in the driveway, as was Sweet Box Truck, whose owner Gretchen Fantini was handing out cupcakes.
Chopped contestants - usually culinary pros - get a mystery basket of ingredients. Four compete in the first round, and judges eliminate ("chop") one. They move on to a second course and another chop. The two remaining contestants duke it out over dessert, and then the winner is declared.
For the first course, the teens were given grapefruit, tuna, hen of the woods mushrooms, and graham cracker cereal. Once he got over the look of the raw tuna, Mikey turned it into pan-seared tuna topped with horseradish tartar sauce, a salad dressed with grapefruit vinaigrette, and graham crackers crumbled on oven-toasted bread.
For the second course, the must ingredients were a leg of goat, hummus, rhubarb, and frisee, which Mikey converted into a stir-fry goat leg with shallots and potatoes. Mike survived a scare; he seemed to be idly chatting with the judges when Marcus Samuelsson pointed out that his pan of potatoes was burning to a crisp.
Dessert's basket included kettle-style potato chips, black currant jam, red anjou pears and Japanese mayonnaise. Mikey knocked that one out as Japanese mayo mousse with black currant compote.
At home, Mikey cooks simple meals (omelets and home fries for breakfast) as well as big family parties (he's the youngest of Kevin and Linda Robins' four kids). His earliest food memory is at age 3 or 4 helping his mother make congo bars (chocolate-chip blondies).
Let's make it clear that he does have two advantages: his parents used to operate a Young Chefs Academy in North Wales and the family has two kitchens.
One for everyone else and one for you? "That's how I like to think of it." he replied.
Mikey's goal is to become the youngest Food Network host and to create a lifestyle brand, much as Rachael Ray and Oprah Winfrey have done.