“We can’t really afford things past the bare necessities,” he admits.
The middle schooler from San Diego — whose dad is a tattoo artist and mom prepares taxes — will have his chance to claim the season three title and $100,000 cash prize Tuesday night.
Nathan’s MASTERCHEF JUNIOR finale showdown with New Jersey teen Andrew Zappley promises to be an epic battle of east versus west — “confident lion against quiet mouse.”
“It is definitely going to be a very crazy episode,” he tells me. “There are going to be quite a few surprises. It’s a really close call.”
Nathan developed a passion for food after taking what he describes as “a small cooking class in fifth grade for inner city kids.”
But fresh ingredients and expensive appliances were usually beyond the family’s means.
“When I wanted new kitchen equipment, I would do little things around the house or around the neighborhood,” he says.
“I would make things and sell them and save up the money on my own.”
“[I’d sell] a lot of regular kid things, like little bracelets. I sold some of the old things that I had like old books or DVDs.”
The talented young chef shared more about his life, ambitions and MASTERCHEF JUNIOR journey in an exclusive interview with TheTVPage.com.
The finale episode was taped last year. How difficult has it been for you to keep the ending a secret?
It has been really difficult to keep the whole show and my progress a secret. But I feel like it is a huge relief to be able to talk about the episodes I have been in now that they are airing.
Some people considered you the dark horse in this competition. Is that fair?
In the first episode or two I was clearly reserved and didn’t have a lot of ambition. I was kind of afraid to take too many risks. Then I realized that I kind of had to do different things.
Win or lose, you got so much out of being on this show. Have you thought of what’s next?
I think in the coming years, I might want to start like getting more kids to get into cooking and maybe help out teaching a class or something.
Are you surprised to have advanced as far as you did?
Once I realized I was in the finale it was definitely really crazy for me. I had come in expecting I would do as well but then I found myself all the way at the end and it was really surreal for me.
So you never really thought you would make it that far?
Honestly, I didn’t. But then honestly as I learned more from the judges, my self confidence started getting a lot higher.
What is your relationship with Andrew like now that the show is over?
Andrew and I are still really good friends. We occasionally text after the episodes and talk about how cool it was to see ourselves on TV and what it was like playing back what happened to us in real life.
Sounds like you made a lot of friends on the show…
This show has definitely taught me to come out of my shell and make friends more. Before that I was always quite reserved and didn’t really talk to people. But after this, I have made so many great friends that I will probably keep talking to for the rest of my life.
Your pastries are amazing! Do you ever sell them — maybe at a local bakery?
I don’t really have a vending license yet, but I really hope to get one and maybe do some fundraising at my school.
What else are you interested in, besides cooking?
I have always been pretty interested in animation and gaming because it has always been a really big part of my life. For me it has always been Nintendo that was my main interest. When I was 5 or 6, my uncle gave me a game cube and it was the most revolutionary thing in the world for me.
Who do you play with? Do you have siblings?
I am an only child, so I usually play alone or with my parents.
Do you like being an only child?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It can get a little lonely occasionally. But that is why I have friends. I would say that I probably wouldn’t be in the kitchen as much if I did have siblings because we really wouldn’t be able to take that time out of our day to get cooking.
What kinds of things do you like to do with your friends?
Usually, with my friends, we are in the kitchen quite a bit. The Internet is usually pretty big too,
Cooking seems to have become super cool among young people now.
A long time ago it used to be that cooking was a pastime for people who really didn’t have much else to do. But then it sort of became almost like an art form where people could start expressing themselves through plating or how they cooked their food.
Is your goal to open a restaurant one day?
I don’t think I want to open up a dining restaurant, but I might like to open a little cafe where we serve pastries. Being a chef if definitely the route I want to go.
Last question — tell us about the hair…
Usually with the hair it starts out as wash it and brush it. I think it is kind of a San Diego thing. People don’t really get their hair cut often, whether it is for strange spiritual reasons or they just don’t have time for it.
MASTERCHEF JUNIOR airs Tuesday nights at 8:00 PM on Fox.
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