‘MasterChef Junior’ contestant from Oak Park wants to judge Gordon Ramsay’s food

Credit: Olivier Douliery

Credit: Olivier Douliery

A few months after he finished taping “MasterChef Junior,” Oak Park, Ill., contestant Pierce Cleaveland visited Gordon Ramsay’s Maze Grill while on spring break. Unfortunately, the “MasterChef” judge wasn’t at that particular London location at the time.

“I wish, though. I could be like, ‘Now that I’m off the show and you’ve judged me, now it’s time for me to judge you,’ “ Pierce, 12, told the Tribune recently.

Pierce, a sixth-grader at Percy Julian Middle School, was sent home on last week’s episode of “MasterChef Junior” after his team lost a breakfast challenge and he served the judges risotto that lacked seasoning. Pierce said he has since made that same risotto and is trying out a recipe for a mushroom version.

His elimination was a rare misstep. Pierce was often praised for the dishes he served, especially the vanilla panna cotta with guava-raspberry puree and bruleed blood oranges he made for a sugar-free challenge. He looks back on the Fox network competition fondly, and not just because he’s achieved star status at school.

“I honestly — not to brag — but I became a little bit more popular at school,” Pierce said. “I guess I will be well known as that kid who was on ‘MasterChef Junior.’ But I’m not really (in it) for the popularity, I’m just all about having fun. I mean, it was like a really fun experience. Lots of people come up to me and ask a bunch of questions that I like answering, and I want to also inspire people who want to cook, too.”

He raised and pledged about $2,500 for the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry during his time on the show. Pierce said it was “a little bit weird” to watch himself on TV, but this may not be the last we see of him onscreen. He is in a production of “Disaster!,” an homage to classic ‘70s disaster movies that’s being staged by the Chicago Theatre Workshop.

“I play these twins. I play a boy and a girl named Ben and Lisa. I go backstage and when I’m Lisa, I put on a hat with braids coming out and then when I’m Ben, I just leave my normal hair to flow out,” Pierce said. “It’s a really fun role because I get to go back and forth, and I get to be really bratty.”

Pierce said he is rooting for the two Chicago-area contestants who made it to the top 12 of “MasterChef Junior”: Beni Cwiakala, of the Pilsen neighborhood; and Mikey DiTomasso, of Clarendon Hills. Season 6 airs at 7 p.m. Fridays. The winner is slated to receive $100,000.

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