COOKING WITH PRECISION
Local MasterChef Junior competitor adds chemistry to his kitchen experiments.
WRITTEN BY STEPH RODRIGUEZ
PHOTO COURTESY OF FOX. ©2017 FOX BROADCASTING CO.
While some youths ask their parents for bats and balls, 14-year-old Adam Wadhwani recalls a time when he asked his mom for a blow torch, CO2 cartridges, and a set of sharp knives.
For most parents, that would be a strange and tall order to fill, but for Wadhwani’s mother, Emel Wadhwani, these gadgets were simply kitchen tools that propelled a then-9-year-old boy’s culinary interests to a level where dishes mirrored restaurant-quality fine dining.
“As a parent, you are sometimes jolted into realizing that your kid does have something special going on, and you need to really support him,” Emel says. “When he got interested in food, it wasn’t just an attempt to create delicious stuff, which he does very well. But he was also interested in the technique and the technology and the equipment that goes with it.”
At the edge of 12 years old, Adam and his mother flew to Los Angeles to try out for the FOX television show MasterChef Junior, hosted by world-renowned chef Gordon Ramsay and award-winning pastry chef Christina Tosi. More than 4,000 young chefs between the ages of 8 and 13 auditioned for the series in order to earn a spot in the Top 40 and the chance to win the $100,000 grand prize.
Adam garnered a place by baking chocolate cupcakes filled with strawberry compote and topped with a buttercream frosting that was infused with smoked cinnamon and nutmeg. His cupcakes not only earned him a signature white apron, but this Sutter Middle School student also received a high five from the famously ill-tempered Ramsay.
“A lot of what compelled me about MasterChef was getting to be around other kids who enjoyed the same thing I did … and with professionals who knew what they were doing and could help guide us to make us better,” Adam says.
Throughout the season, Adam was a strong competitor, showcasing his Mediterranean roots and the region’s flavors, as well as his love for science and chemistry.
“I’ve learned to use precision in my cooking and started using molecular gastronomy, which is sort of chemistry rather than just cooking,” Adam says. “I started using a higher level of equipment and experimenting with what I’m doing with my food.”
Although Adam wasn’t crowned this year’s winner, he finished in the Top 4 of the semifinals and cheered on his fellow competitors during the show’s season finale, which aired in May.
PHOTO BY DEBBIE CUNNINGHAM
Back to school
Since leaving the MasterChef kitchen, Adam says he looks forward to starting high school in the Sacramento area this fall, where he plans to continue exploring his passions in science and engineering.
With a new school on the horizon and a once-in-a-lifetime experience in his memories, Adam encourages anyone, no matter what age, to follow what excites them, whether it’s baking the perfect cupcake or delving into a science experiment.
“Go for it,” he says. “It’s never going to happen if you don’t try it.”
Steph Rodriguez is an award-winning freelance journalist who keeps a close eye on the food and music scene in Sacramento. From entertainment and lifestyle features to profiles with a farm-to-fork interest, she aims to capture the best of Sacramento.
Follow Adam Wadhwani on Instagram at @Juniorchefadam or find Junior Chef Adam on Facebook to discover cooking demos and updates on future appearances.
Duck Breast with Orange Sauce, Greens, and Root Vegetables
(courtesy of Adam Wadhwani. Serves 2)
1 skin-on duck breast (frozen is fine if fresh isn’t available)
1 bunch kale (may use spinach or rainbow chard instead)
8 small turnips (may substitute beets or other root vegetables)
2 medium oranges (may substitute blood oranges)
¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup chicken stock
4 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper
Mix ¼ cup sugar with juice of two oranges; add pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer. Add 2 tablespoons butter, and allow to reduce for 20 minutes. Then add ¼ cup chicken stock and allow to reduce until mixture coats back of a spoon.
Peel and cut ends off turnips. Cook in mixture of half chicken stock, half water (enough to cover turnips), 1 teaspoon sugar, and pinch of salt and pepper until tender.
Season duck with salt and pepper. Cook in frying pan with olive oil, skin-side down, 4 minutes; once skin is crispy, flip to other side, add 2 tablespoons butter, and cook 4 more minutes, basting with butter frequently. Duck should be medium rare when done. Let it rest while preparing kale.
Wilt kale in pan with olive oil, salt, and pepper. This should take a few minutes.
Pile some kale in middle of each plate. Slice duck breast and place half on each heap of kale. Arrange four turnips on each plate around duck and kale. Drizzle orange sauce over duck. If desired, use squeeze bottle to make attractive designs.