Lower Gy­wnedd teen to ap­pear on Food ket­works’s ‘Chopped’

The Willow Grove Guide - - OPINION - By Eric Devlin

ede­vlin@mont­gomerynews.com The Am­bler area ap­pears to be be­com­ing a hot spot for new Food ket­work stars.

Just as Am­bler na­tive Chad Rosen­thal con­tin­ues to slay the com­pe­ti­tion on “Food ket­work Star,” one Ger­man­town Acad­emy stu­dent is get­ting his own shot in the spot­light.

Mikey Robins, 15, of Lower Gwynedd, is about to cook up a storm on the spe­cial “Teen In­va­sion” episode of the se­ries “Chopped” July 2 at 10 p.m. The show, hosted by celebrity food ex­pert Ted Allen, pits four con­tes­tants against each other with the chal­lenge to cre­ate an ap­pe­tizer, en­trée and dessert from mys­tery in­gre­di­ents with lit­tle time to pre­pare. The bas­ket of in­gre­di­ents con­tes­tants are given are usu­ally not ones nor­mally paired to­gether.

Dur­ing the first round of the show, con­tes­tants have 20 min­utes to cre­ate an ap­pe­tizer; in the sec­ond round, they have 30 min­utes to make an en­trée and an­other 30 min­utes for dessert. A panel of judges, made up of pro­fes­sional chefs and restau­ra­teurs, de­cides the win­ner at the end of the episode.

Mikey said he’s had a long­time pas­sion for cook­ing.

“I’ve been cook­ing ever since I was lit­tle,” the GA sopho­more said. “When I was 10 or 11 I lost 30 pounds and that’s when my love of cook­ing ig­nited.”

Us­ing fresh in­gre­di­ents in his dishes helped him shed the pounds, he said, and his love for the show in­spired him to try out as a con­tes­tant.

“I’m a big fan of the show and they al­ways have like ‘we’re look­ing for new chefs.’ So last sum­mer I went on the web­site when it said they were look­ing for new chefs, not ex­pect­ing to see any­thing.”

He said he saw that the show was hold­ing an open cast­ing call for any­one in­ter­ested in the teen episode.

Mikey said he filed an ap­pli­ca­tion on­line and sent in pic­tures of him­self for cast­ing agents to see. Two days later, he was on the phone for a 45-minute phone in­ter­view just for a chance to au­di­tion at the Food ket­work stu­dios. The fol­low­ing day he re­ceived an email telling him to come up to kew vork for a cam­era test au­di­tion.

“They didn’t give us a lot of in­for­ma­tion,” he said re­gard­ing the kinds of things he would be do­ing when he got to the Big Ap­ple.

The only thing he was told to do was bring with him pic­tures of pre­vi­ous dishes he’d made. In an ef­fort to im­press the cast­ing agents, he said he also brought six loaves of his spe­cial pound cake to try.

Af­ter nailing an on-cam­era in­ter­view with cast­ing agents, he waited two months un­til mid-Septem­ber be­fore he was given the top-se­cret word that the ex­ec­u­tives at Food ket­work liked his video and that he had earned a spot on the show, he said.

“This was at school dur­ing a pic­nic,” he said, adding it was hard not to tell any­one. “I had to hide my ex­cite­ment.”

At the be­gin­ning of this year, Mikey said took a sec­ond train ride up for the episode’s tap­ing but is sworn to se­crecy about the out­come.

“I wasn’t re­ally ner­vous,” he said about the big day. “It was more of just try­ing and think back to all the recipes that I know and all the fla­vor com­bi­na­tions that I know … we watched ev­ery sin­gle episode [of the show] ba­si­cally [to pre­pare].”

His big­gest in­spi­ra­tion through­out the process he said has been celebrity chef Rachael Ray.

“She doesn’t mea­sure [in­gre­di­ents] and I don’t mea­sure ei­ther,” he said. “And I like that she has the whole em­pire, that’s what I’d like to do some­day. I’d like to have my own talk show, cook­ing and life­style show. And I like that she has the whole em­pire of all the pots and pans, the aprons, the olive oil line, ev­ery­thing she has is like kind of what I want.”

Mikey said he also ad­mires Ray’s will­ing­ness to give back through her char­ity vum-o!, which em­pow­ers chil­dren and fam­i­lies to de­velop a healthy re­la­tion­ship with cook­ing.

On the pre­miere night of the episode, Mikey said he’ll be hold­ing a watch party at his house and will be col­lect­ing do­na­tions that will go to vum-o! through a game called “Guess the Bas­ket,” where par­tic­i­pants can earn $50, $100 and $200 gift cards by cor­rectly guess­ing what will ap­pear in his mys­tery bas­ket dur­ing the episode.

As the big night quickly ap- proaches, Mikey said he con­tin­ues to cook and prac­tice new recipes. He ac­knowl­edged that af­ter the episode airs, there might be a num­ber of op­por­tu­ni­ties open to him to ex­plore and he wants to be ready.

“I’m just try­ing to im­prove my­self now,” he said.

The ex­pe­ri­ence, he said, has been re­ally ex­cit­ing and he’s al­ready mak­ing plans to pur­sue a ca­reer in the field.

“Af­ter I grad­u­ate GA, I def­i­nitely want to get some de­gree in broad­cast­ing and some de­gree in culi­nary arts too,” he said. “But that’s the thing, I want to have a talk show that’s cook­ing life­style, but un­der life­style like party plan­ning, cook­ing, en­ter­tain­ing, in­te­rior de­sign, pop cul­ture, celebrity news, things like that. A whole spec­trum of dif­fer­ent top­ics.”

Mont­gomery Me­dia staff photo / BOB RAINES

Lower Gwynedd res­i­dent Mikey Robins, 15, will be fea­tured in the spe­cial “Teen In­va­sion” episode of the hit Food Net­work se­ries “Chopped” air­ing July 2.

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