He's as cute as a Campbell Soup Kid but make no mistake: Alexander Weiss is a killer in the kitchen! The first winner of MasterChef Junior will return for the show's second season — premiering Tuesday, Nov. 4 (8/7c) — to present the newbie contestants with their first mystery-box challenge. TV Guide Magazine spoke with the sage 14-year-old to get his take on food competition shows...the good, the bad and the ugly!
TV Guide Magazine: You junior chefs seemed to be much better cooks, and made far fewer mistakes, than the adults on MasterChef. What's that about?
Weiss: Some people think that [judges] Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich were being too soft on us. But, the truth is, we kids are much different than the adults cooks, who bring their heavy egos to the show, not to mention a lot of fighting and arguing. Kids are there for the fun and to learn and grow, you know?
TV Guide Magazine: Not to win? You sure about that? You sure seemed determined to take the title.
Weiss: Sure, we want to win but it's not a high-stakes pressure situation for us. We're not taking big life risks and giving up our jobs, like some of the adults do, for a chance to be on TV. We can relax more and that means our minds are clearer. And when your mind is clear you can be more creative. [Laughs] We can concentrate on cooking and not worry about our backs getting stabbed.
TV Guide Magazine: There also seems to be a lot of bullying in the adult version, and none with you juniors.
Weiss: The adults always seem to find someone to pick on. Everyone looks for a villain, or the one who seems weak. A lot of the cooks in Season 5 were against Leslie, because he was older than the rest, and, in Season 4 they were against Krissi, because she said what was on her mind. The adults do much more screaming and yelling and cursing — just because they can, I guess.
TV Guide Magazine: Do you think you kids will turn out that way, too?
Weiss: Not really. I'd like to think that, when I'm an adult, I would behave myself a little more. [Laughs] Okay, a lot more.
TV Guide Magazine: What advice did you give the 16 new MasterChef Junior contestants?
Weiss: I told them the key to success in the kitchen is to strategize and visualize, even when the clock is ticking. For example, on the mystery-box challenge, my strategy was to always take my first 10 minutes and see in my mind what my composed dish would look like. Don't rush into it. And it's important to always stay open to new ideas, new ways. I did an appearance on MasterChef Junior Indonesia and the kids were amazing. They were excelling at dishes I couldn't begin to cook!
TV Guide Magazine: You won MasterChef Junior at 13 and were pitted against 9- and 10-year-olds, which some viewers didn't think was fair. This time the age range is 8-13 years. Thoughts on this?
Weiss: A 4- or 5-year age difference when you're that young can be huge but the auditions weed out any inequalities. The kids coming in all have the same passion for cooking and the same skill sets, so that an 8- or 9-year-old can be just as good as a young teen — maybe even better. There's no unfair advantage.
TV Guide Magazine: You've had quite an early career start. How soon until you're running your own restaurant?
Weiss: I learned so much from MasterChef Junior — including that I can make a terrible layer cake — and some really great opportunities have already come from it. I've interned at restaurants in Los Angeles, Chicago, Cleveland, and in New York, where I live. But I can't even begin to think about opening my own place yet. I want to learn as much as I can before I get into the business, especially about finances and expenses. I want my hands in everything!