Ten-year-old Ashley Johnson of South Ozone Park is the latest contestant representing Queens on the TV show “MasterChef Junior” Season 7, which premiers Tuesday night, March 12.
Johnson will compete for a trophy and a $100,000 grand prize during the show which debuts March 12 at 8 p.m. with award-winning chef Gordon Ramsay and renowned pastry chef Christina Tosi, joined by celebrated chef and restaurateur Aaron Sanchez on the judges’ panel.
MasterChef Junior gives talented kids between the ages of 8 and 13 the chance to showcase their culinary abilities and passion for food through a series of fun, mouth-watering challenges.
Johnson, a fifth-grader at Our Lady’s Catholic Academy in South Ozone Park, decided to audition for the show in December 2017. After the audition, she was notified via phone that she would be a contestant on the show, she said.
“There were so many thoughts going through my head,” said Johnson, who auditioned for the show in December 2017. “I was super excited. My heart was racing when I found out … I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’”
Johnson began cooking at the age of 3 by making eggs, and her favorite dish to cook, she said, is spaghetti and meatballs, as well as dishes that include Caribbean flavors.
“I like to make salmon. I come from a Caribbean background so I like to make curry goat,” said Johnson. “I also like to bake when I get the opportunity … usually cakes, cupcakes and cookies.”
In the premiere episode, the Top 24 contestants must prove they’ve mastered the first meal of the day, breakfast, in a mystery box challenge. Then, school lunches get a total makeover as contestants are tasked with elevating three classic school lunch dishes into restaurant-quality cuisine.
For her signature dish, Johnson will be preparing steamed salmon with vegetables and her secret ingredient of peppers from her uncle’s garden.
“When I cook, I like to keep it colorful,” Johnson said. “I don’t like it to be boring, so okra, tomato, onions, hot pepper, garlic, carrots, thyme, pumpkin and a combination of seasonings. It’s really simple but it tastes delicious.”
If Johnson wins MasterChef Junior, she said that she would love to one day open her own restaurant called “Sweet Baby Cheesecake” and attend space camp, since she loves astronomy.
“I’m really proud of her because it’s a challenge of course. She’s a competitor so I knew from the get-go she would be great,” said Johnson’s mother, Jene Robinson. “I’m really proud.”