Hi all!

My name is Nathan Odom and I won Season 3 of MasterChef Junior back in 2015. I actually did an AmA before the pandemic, but a lot has changed for me in the past few years and I wanted to share my experiences with everybody in a more public format.

After I graduated high school in 2019, I applied for a Cultural Activities visa to study traditional Japanese cuisine at a 3 Michelin star restaurant in Japan. I lived in a super rural area for two years but returned home to San Diego recently to focus on my mental health.

I look forward to answering any questions you may have, and thanks so much to this community for giving people a platform to share their stories.

If you're interested in what I'm doing now in lieu of working in a professional kitchen, I update my Instagram and TikTok regularly @nathaneodom

I can't promise I'll post consistently but I can promise there will be videos of a very cute corgi :)


Edit: Really enjoying everybody's questions! I'm taking a short break but feel free to keep asking me stuff, I'll be online sporadically for the next day or so.

Edit: Wow! We made front page. Thanks everyone for your questions and awards. Hopefully those of you that try Thelma's beef stew recipe succeed, and if you're having trouble feel free to PM me and I'll help you out ;) I'll still be answering interesting/new questions as they trickle in but once again, thanks to everybody who participated!

Comments: 1304 • Responses: 94  • Date: 

ImaginaryLuck1300 karma

How is Gordon Ramsey behind the cameras? Is he actually nice and helpful?

tarte-aux-pommes2777 karma

He's a teddy bear. He likes to sneak up on contestants and their parents and scare them sometimes between taping. I never really saw him lose his temper.

FormalObligation4265949 karma

What’s your go to meal for cooking comfort food?

tarte-aux-pommes1252 karma

Beef stew is probably my favorite comfort food. I usually add leeks and mushrooms instead of those little pearl onions some people use. I can never find them at the store.

bookwormpretty279 karma

Is it possible to share the recipe?

tarte-aux-pommes881 karma

I don't have it written down but I pinkie swear I'll reply to this comment with it later!

tarte-aux-pommes3018 karma

Sorry for the wait!

Beef Mushroom Stew: Serves 8-10

2 Pounds Beef Stew Meat

3 tbsp. Flour

3 tbsp. Butter

Salt and Pepper TT

4 Yukon Potatoes, chopped

2 Carrots, chopped

2 Leeks, sliced into ¼ inch rounds

2 Yellow Onions, diced

½ cup Soy Sauce

1 cup Water

1 10.5oz can Cream of Mushroom Soup

1-2 pints Assorted Mushrooms, sliced

1 tbsp. Lemon Juice

Slice stew meat into bite-sized cubes, place in a large freezer bag and coat with flour, salt, and pepper. In a large dutch oven, melt the butter at medium-high heat and sear the beef on all sides. Add vegetables and mushrooms and sautee briefly until browned and flavorful. Add the water, soy sauce, and simmer with the lid covered on low heat for 1 hour, adding a few tablespoons more water if necessary to prevent burning. Finally, pour in the cream of mushroom soup and lemon juice, and simmer for 15-20 more minutes. Adjust seasoning and enjoy! This stew tastes better as leftovers.

RedHotChamploo340 karma

Respect you delivering!! Sounds super good

tarte-aux-pommes936 karma

It's my great grandmother Thelma's recipe, I think she would've wanted me to share it with as many people as possible :)

El_Zarco139 karma

That's very kind of you and great grams. I know of some grandmas that would hunt you down Liam Neeson-style if their recipe ever left the family haha

tarte-aux-pommes135 karma

My Nonie would probably do that. She will find you. And she will kill you.

beenoc798 karma

How valuable of a "resume add" is winning Master Chef (Jr.)? Like, is that something that a potential hirer would look at and say "ooh this guy is a real good chef let's hire him," or is it seen as more of a irrelevant/"publicity stunt" thing (or in the specific case of MC Jr, a "kid" thing and irrelevant in the same way that someone who won a national spelling bee isn't going to get any big ins with book publishers) and they'd rather have someone who went to culinary school, or what?

tarte-aux-pommes1313 karma

At first I only put it down because I didn't have any job experience, but now that I've been in the industry for years and have worked at like 7 restaurants I usually put those first. I don't expect anybody to be impressed in the real world 😂

sixesand7s648 karma

When you are on masterchef do you get warned about what dishes you might have to prepare?

tarte-aux-pommes1440 karma

We received supplemental culinary education lessons before taping the episodes, but never knew what the theme was ahead of time. The dishes we ended up making were always very impromptu and it felt like a real competition every step of the way. There was very little external influence.

UnderThat529 karma

When you say ‘Masterchef’ money……..what are we talking?

tarte-aux-pommes1528 karma

Close to 75,000 after taxes. One of the hardest realizations of my adulthood so far has been how little that actually is in big boy dollars. Oh well, I can make more if I need to.

Metroidman62 karma

I got my first job ever making more than 50k the other day and that is an upsetting sentence

tarte-aux-pommes52 karma

Hell, you're doing better than I am

diffcalculus55 karma

in big boy dollars

Wait til you have kids. Those big boy dollars converts to poor boy dollars real fast.

tarte-aux-pommes53 karma

Not sure if I'll ever have them! I'm not great with kids 😅

the_soggy_taco360 karma

How long did the season of MC you were in take to film? I can imagine a lot goes on behind the scenes that we never get to see!

tarte-aux-pommes600 karma

The entire 8 episode season was filmed over the course of about six weeks. We had a lot of fun times that didn't make it on TV!

Monstromi350 karma

What made you decide to study cuisine in japan rather than a different country?

tarte-aux-pommes731 karma

I went on foreign exchange there for ten months in high school! I've always liked Japanese culture; not just manga and anime but traditional arts as well like ikebana, tea ceremony, and kaiseki. Japanese cuisine is deeply rooted in tradition and requires a lot of precision to execute, so I think I was drawn to the challenge.

emt139288 karma

I like the way you write. You’re still super young and obviously a lot comes from experience but I’d love to see you a Bourdain type of program—you always come across as kind and appreciative of cultural differences.

How did you manage working such long hours and having a puppy?

tarte-aux-pommes402 karma

I grew up watching Anthony Bourdain so that made me tear up a little bit. Thank you. I try to be as open to new experiences as possible.

To answer your question, I didn't. Aki is a fucking handful and a half and I had to walk him three or four times a day to keep him happy and to keep my house poop free. He still tried to ruin everything I own and my apartment in the meantime, but I moved home when he was seven months old and it's been smooth sailing since then.

I love him though, he's worth it.

existentialism91342253 karma

What is your favorite hole in the wall restaurant?

tarte-aux-pommes1059 karma

In San Diego, there's a local joint called The Friendly that serves really simple American fare. It's far from healthy, but it's so unnecessarily fucking delicious that I can't help but splurge once in a while. Love those guys.

If you're ever in Toyama, Japan, which is unlikely but not impossible, there's a lovely little cafe in Nunosemachi called Mao (まを)

The owner is the sweetest old woman you'll ever meet. She's been roasting her own beans and pouring the finest coffee you've ever tasted for over thirty years. There are 7 menu items, and the walls are adorned with cat figurines. I would die for Ms. Mao.

LMHT132 karma

I mean I am in Japan and could be convinced to head to Toyama by recommendation. Ms. Mao is added to my want to go list. :D

tarte-aux-pommes202 karma

PLEASE go!! It's the most beautiful place in the country I swear. Small town vibes but the people and food is incredible. I'm always happy to give Ms. Mao some business, even though she used to say she doesn't want the attention lest she become too busy. She can only make 4-5 cups of coffee at a time and she doesn't compromise quality ;)

TomHasADD77 karma

They just made a new friendly in PB fyi

tarte-aux-pommes99 karma

brb I'm gonna go get a burger

tarte-aux-pommes65 karma

that's her!

mudanjel197 karma

Care to share your impressions of the MC Jr judges? 🙂

tarte-aux-pommes577 karma

Gordon is very very tall. And energetic. And loud. But he's the biggest softie and you can tell he loves his job.

Graham is one of the most down to earth people I've ever met and he's given me a lot of great advice over the years.

Joe is pretty serious and was at first intimidating as hell but he's genuinely obsessed with food and fine cooking. I think I related to him most on an intellectual level.

bojonzarth214 karma

I have met Gordon once actually at a taping of Masterchef Jr (In the most recent season, in the episode they goto the renfaire I am the trumpeter) And it was such a weird gauge of him as a person.

At first meeting he was actually pretty rude and mean to me over the fact that I am overweight (I am working on it and look very different now vs then), but he also came up to me later and was really nice and pseudo apologetic and down to earth.

He didn't apologize but leveled with me about my weight on a human level and was quite inspiring to feel that he cared about the health of a person he literally just met and will likely never ever see again.

tarte-aux-pommes170 karma

That seems pretty on brand for him. I want to say it probably comes from a place of love, but I obviously wasn't there to see the interaction myself. I hope he didn't make you feel too bad about yourself :(

yaldie196 karma

Did you enjoy life in Japan?

tarte-aux-pommes795 karma

In some ways yes, in other ways no. At the time I still had a lot of MasterChef money, so living on my own and getting to decorate my own apartment was a lot of fun. The town I lived in, Toyama, was beautiful and full of nature and the people were generally very welcoming and kind.

My work situation was really rough though. My shifts were usually 12-16 hours long and I was at the restaurant 6+ days per week with rare days off. I was so overworked it made enjoying my life outside of work almost impossible.

I'll definitely visit Japan in the future and maybe even buy a house there one day but I'm probably never working there again unless it's on my terms.

Rubix22312 karma

Sounds grueling man, a story told many times over about Japanese work culture.

tarte-aux-pommes371 karma

I was hoping it'd be different in my case since I was an unpaid apprentice, but alas it wasn't! 😂

I don't blame them though, the restaurant was hit pretty hard by COVID and they were doing the best they could.

OneOfALifetime210 karma

12-16 hours long 6 days a week isn't only a Japan thing, unfortunately there are plenty of people in the US working in kitchens with those same hours.

tarte-aux-pommes91 karma

Sad but true. Hoping something changes soon :(

chaneg62 karma

One of the restaurants I frequent is owned by a Japanese chef from Sapporo. I've had multiple occasions where I am driving by from a night out at 2 am and see him still working on perfecting his tare. Occasionally I'll knock on the window and say hi if I am in the neighborhood way after hours.

tarte-aux-pommes64 karma

I've been there. In my case it was dashimaki tamago though.

riptaway97 karma

You worked 90 hours a week for nothing??

tarte-aux-pommes138 karma

I know, I'm an idiot.

cottontailmoon191 karma

I honestly stopped watching regular Masterchef because the adults were unendingly mean to each other in a way that exhausted me to watch.

I feel like MC junior inspires me and gives me hope for the world, the kids seem generally much more supportive of each other. Is this hammed up for TV or did contestants feel genuinely positive towards each other?

tarte-aux-pommes163 karma

Yeah, I get that. I can't speak for the other contestants but I felt like it was a really positive vibe. We all shared common interests and while there may have been a bit of drama I loved interacting with everybody and the competition was a blast.

ConstableGrey152 karma

Is Joe Bastianich as insufferable in real life as he appears on TV?

tarte-aux-pommes262 karma

Not at all! He's generally pretty positive. Has his moments though, like anyone. I think they just keep it in because it's good for ratings.

Badwolf_the_Chef149 karma

Got any secret flavor combos you care to share?

tarte-aux-pommes335 karma

Fruit and cheese. Pretty much any combination with exceptions. Obviously watermelon and camembert would taste like shit together, but cherries and brie? Delicious.

I also think mushrooms and fish go well together but some people would disagree with me on that.

koalaposse102 karma

I like your ideas, and would add. Traditionally in dry, very hot climates, my Greek friends make … Watermelon and Haloumi salad - delicious! Bit of mint and salt, awesome!

From other traditions, Jam and cheddar is an award winning desert at Berowa Waters Resturant, or a good cheddar with English fruitcake is a Yorkshire English tradition for some. And everyone knows a sharp Apple and cheddar as starters or afters, or pear with parmesan and greens salad, lifts things.

tarte-aux-pommes46 karma

Interesting! I might try to recreate that at home soon

Eragaurd47 karma

Lightly breaded Redfin perch, pan fried in butter, with a ginger flavored chanterelle cream sauce, mmm.

tarte-aux-pommes51 karma

I see we speak the same language

wisdom_possibly35 karma

Which cheese pairs best with pineapple? And since it's mango season, mango?

tarte-aux-pommes71 karma

Pineapple would be good sliced small with a sharp cheddar or something of that nature. I think mango would pair better with soft cheeses.

Dead_Toad148 karma

You mentioned that you worked 72-hour weeks as an unpaid apprentice, and your mental health suffered from it. I find unpaid apprenticeships very exploitive and the practice seems to be dying in other trades. Do you think that it will become less common in the food industry, or will there always be people looking to get ahead by 'working for the best' even if that means that their work is unpaid?

tarte-aux-pommes282 karma

Coming from very personal experience, I think there will always be people who value their careers so much they're willing to undergo abuse. I really want the industry to change and for these practices to be discouraged, but in my case I was suffering willingly and on my own dime. I could've pressed the "Go Home to America" button anytime I wanted, but I stayed for two full years to get the most out of the experience in a professional sense.

It's really not worth it though. I think there needs to be conversations about paying people decent wages for the services they provide, in every industry.

Smilingly_Unpicked113 karma

What changed in your life after winning MasterChef?

tarte-aux-pommes306 karma

On the bright side, it sent me on a professional journey I couldn't have imagined. I became so dedicated to cooking that I poured myself into it for years, and I met a lot of amazing individuals along the way. The money was a nice bonus as well.

I felt a lot of expectations from other people though, and I tried to fulfill those by continuing to grind in the culinary industry. Ever since I was a kid though, I've had a lot of hobbies and interests, and having to put those aside for my career made me sick to my stomach.

I'm not working in kitchens these days but I'm doing a lot better mentally, so I think it's worth the trade-off.

Smilingly_Unpicked71 karma

May i ask your current occupation? Hobbies too!

tarte-aux-pommes342 karma

I am happily unemployed and just living life at the moment! But I have enough hobbies to fill the time. I play violin, viola, piano, some guitar and a couple of Japanese instruments as well. I'm thinking about getting into music production.

I also do leatherwork, making purses, wallets, and stuff like that. I picked up the hobby 6 months ago and have been enjoying it immensely.

My dad is a tattoo artist so I'm also very involved in that culture. I'm thinking about learning to tattoo myself. The industry is similar to cooking in a lot of ways, but with more freedom to choose your own schedule.

I have trouble sticking to just one thing. Maybe it's ADHD, or maybe I'm just multi-faceted. Who knows.

meisterdon77 karma

I relate to this so much. Yeah I could be an expert in one or two fields, but there’s so many other cool things to do. I only have one life and I’d personally want to taste a little bit of everything while I’m here.

tarte-aux-pommes58 karma

Well said.

goat466111 karma

Is your real name Sōma Yukihira?

tarte-aux-pommes256 karma

No, but my food does make people's clothes explode off their bodies.

cosmic_player_90 karma

How much was MasterChef Junior different from what was portrayed in the show and how much was it scripted or genuine ?

tarte-aux-pommes220 karma

The cooking was entirely genuine. Most of the interactions between the kids and judges were natural as well. We didn't receive scripts.

The judges had some scripted lines and sometimes during interviews production would encourage us to talk about certain topics. Everything was improvised though.

InterstateExit104 karma

I just want to tell you that you are my favorite MC Jr contestant of all time. You were poised, polite, smart, talented, and adorable. I’m happy to see you here and doing well in your life.

tarte-aux-pommes69 karma

Thank you so much!

theglenlovinet88 karma

Which food trend do you think should be put to rest?

tarte-aux-pommes358 karma

Excessive amounts of meat. I'm not a fan of giant burgers or 36 oz. steaks, I think meat should be used in small quantities.

Also, that thing some fine dining restaurants do where they take half of a tiny onion, turn it upside down and fill it with sauce. I think it looks tacky.

theglenlovinet75 karma

Haha, wow, I didn’t even know about the Onion-Sauce thing. And I thought the old slice of lemon for sauce ramekins trick was tacky.

tarte-aux-pommes74 karma


iRan_soFar88 karma

How long had you been playing Halo for?

tarte-aux-pommes110 karma

I'm shit at RPGs my bad

Smilingly_Unpicked85 karma

Do you eat (and enjoy) fast food even after masterchef and working in a 3 Michelin star restaurant?

tarte-aux-pommes181 karma

I've been on a health kick recently so not so much these days, but I still indulge in some McDonalds on occasion. I always feel sick afterwards though.

robosmrf82 karma

Does the kitty get to taste test?

tarte-aux-pommes129 karma

Momo will eat anything he can get his grubby little paws on. He's definitely stolen ingredients from behind my back while I'm cooking.

JangSaverem79 karma

How wealthy are your parents. Always wondered if the kids on those type of shows come from notably affluent families who can afford training and or coaches for their kids in a way that gets them to television.

Is there any truth to parents paying their kids into that show to get them "on tv" so as to push their tv personality future careers or to simply get their name out to be noticed?

tarte-aux-pommes258 karma

We're uh... Hood rich?

Seriously, we barely have enough money to afford living in one of the seediest parts of San Diego. There's a homeless encampment 10 yards away from me right now.

I'm sure there's some of that Hollywood nonsense going on in some circles, but that's not how I was raised. My dad's a tattoo artist and my mom is a professional cool lady.

Badass_Bunny76 karma

So when you woke up today, was it your goal to ruin the ending of Season 3 of Master Cheff Junior for me as I have 6 episodes left?

tarte-aux-pommes99 karma

Yes, it was a contrived effort on my part and I'm glad my evil plan worked. Seriously though, my bad.

yuudachi64 karma

What's your best dish?

tarte-aux-pommes110 karma

Beef tenderloin with whatever vegetables are seasonal and available. Also pastries of all shapes and sizes. I used to bake obsessively when I was younger.

UghlyCoyote45 karma

This might be an oddball question, but hear me out:

I have a disease that essentially results in my stomach being mostly paralyzed, and part of the territory that comes with that is having early satiety (that's especially quickened with high fiber and fat content). The irony is that I consider myself to be very food adventurous and enjoy trying new and unusual cuisine.

What is something unique and special that should go on my "bucket list" of dishes that would fit these extremely niche parameters?

TIA! I hope you're enjoying life knowing that you look back and marvel at what amazing shir you've done. (: I'm in the same boat--it's surreal and humbling.

tarte-aux-pommes99 karma

Japanese kaiseki is extremely low in fat and starch, so you might want to consider something of that nature. Most dishes are based around dashi, and there are many clear soups and vegetable-based dishes that aren't very filling. At the end of the meal rice is served so everyone can eat to contentment, but in your case you could just skip it and have the pickles and miso soup I suppose. Meat is used sparingly, and most plates are very small although there are a lot of individual courses.

Shogunyan40 karma

This is easily one of the best AMAs I've ever seen. You're a great writer, and even as someone who isn't super into cooking, I've really enjoyed reading your answers. So very important question. What are your favorite anime/manga series right now?

tarte-aux-pommes34 karma

Thank you so much! That is an important question. As far as recent releases I really liked Blue Period, Given, and The Great Pretender. My favorite series of all time might be Toradora though. What can I say, I'm a sucker for shoujo

NeoJuice39 karma

How strong is your Japanese? I imagine a lot of the vocabulary you use in the kitchen is French but it must be pretty good if you lived there outside Tokyo.

tarte-aux-pommes207 karma

I passed N2 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Exam a couple years ago, but I'm definitely N1 or above now. I would say I have near-native level fluency and my pronunciation is good enough that I get mistaken for a Japanese person on the phone. I have a Toyama accent though. Whenever I go to Tokyo people tell me I talk like I'm from the boonies.

tee-one28 karma

How did you learn the language before you moved there? How fluent were you before you moved there?

tarte-aux-pommes98 karma

When I first went to Japan on foreign exchange in 2018 my Japanese was absolute ass. I went to a high school over there for ten months and my friends, host family, and teachers taught me the basics.

Now I can read Japanese novels and watch anime without subtitles :)

ButDidYouCry25 karma

Damn, that's how you do it, total language immersion. I did Japanese for two years in uni and never got competent at it.

tarte-aux-pommes53 karma

It's the only way to go imo! I'm working on getting Italian citizenship right now and I'm planning to do the same thing to learn Italian.

Emorigg38 karma

Fellow Toyama resident checking in. I never made it out to the restaurant you worked in, but my friend did a few times I think (if you remember a guy named Josh). Hope you get to slow down after the intense grind and wish you all the best.

Besides まを, any other hidden gems you like here in Toyama or around Hokuriku?

tarte-aux-pommes45 karma

Yeah I know Josh! Small world, huh... I've been doing a lot better recently, thank you :) I didn't do a lot of eating in Toyama outside of the restaurant I worked at, but I recommend Hammock Cafe in Uozu for their parfaits, Beru in Nunosemachi for their bread, and Charlotte Bakery by Toyama Station

Brekiniho33 karma

Do these the children on the show get any lessons before filming?

i am 38 and i couldnt do 80% of what insee 9 year olds doing.

tarte-aux-pommes52 karma

Some, yes! But not as much preparation as you would think. In my opinion, every kid who participated was above average in the kitchen.

Emekasan33 karma

Do you like cooking for people in non-work settings? Or is it more when you personally feel like it or had to do it for work?

tarte-aux-pommes52 karma

Yes! I love dinner parties and cooking for myself and my family.

JGrutman33 karma

Have you watched Chopped? I used to watch Chopped a lot. What would be your strategy to get to the ice cream machine first?

tarte-aux-pommes61 karma

I would never make ice cream. I feel like it'd be melted by the time the judges taste it. It looks like one quick cut on TV but it's probably a few minutes before they taste the dishes in actuality.

Towel432 karma

What is your favorite way to prepare eggs?

If you’re making a breakfast taco, what’s it made up of? What’s on the inside?

tarte-aux-pommes64 karma

Omelettes. I make french omelettes once or twice a week, usually with whatever ingredients we have lying around.

Breakfast taco = warm flour tortilla, potatoes, eggs, chorizo. maybe some hot sauce if you're feeling froggy.

notmrgoodguy25 karma

What is the hardest recipe you learned in your work in Japan? Whats is the tastiest? What is your favorite?

tarte-aux-pommes63 karma

Sushi is... so fucking difficult? I know that seems obvious but damn, when I actually started learning to make it I was dumbfounded. Honestly I still have no idea how to do it properly. Black magic?

Kaiseki is my favorite though. Traditional Japanese fine dining.

A_lonerist25 karma

Just wanted to say I really enjoyed your season and it led me to almost prefer MCJ to the original. One of my favorite pandemic binges

Question I guess, how do you deal with stress / hardship?

tarte-aux-pommes53 karma

Nowadays when I'm feeling stressed (which is rare) I smoke weed and take time to reorganize my thoughts in private. I tend to isolate whenever I'm not feeling good bc I can recollect myself better.

flynnie78924 karma

I bet Gordon Ramsey is an absolute sweetheart

Confirm or deny?

tarte-aux-pommes41 karma

Hard confirm

flynnie78910 karma

Do you have any culinary plans for the future, besides dinner?

tarte-aux-pommes33 karma

I might open my own restaurant someday, if I have the wherewithal to do so. I'm not in any rush though, a business is a big commitment and I want to enjoy my twenties.

Bolyroy1357917 karma

Hey Nathan, thanks for doing an AMA! Huge fan of MasterChef. Got a question about the way professional chefs learn in the kitchen these days:

I see this view from media that great chefs are born from fire, and chefs in training might have to deal with some scalding remarks + criticism from very passionate chefs. I think more often than not, people would think Gordon himself learning from Marco Pierre White might employ similar tactics to really harden chefs.

Is that actually real / normal in kitchens or learning? And if so, do you think it's an actually effective way to make someone a better cook?

tarte-aux-pommes30 karma

Yes, it's real. I think the practice stems from a desire for control and discipline. The current structure of the culinary industry forces really rigorous conditions on people, and a lot of chefs try to desensitize their workers by abusing them psychologically, emotionally, and physically. If you do a bad job, you get the old ladle to the head.

I don't agree with it whatsoever, but some might argue it's necessary. I think it just makes kitchens the same as any corporate job, even though they're supposed to be an escape from the machinations of office life.

CaptainClutchMuch16 karma

Best way to start learning how to cook? It seems so hard and don’t know what to make

tarte-aux-pommes45 karma

Make anything! I started with eggs. They sucked at first, but I kept making them and now they don't. Just get better at failing and being okay with it :)

Cdiffnegative15 karma

What is your fast food guilty pleasure?

tarte-aux-pommes44 karma

Wienerschnitzel. Specifically the M&M freezee.

Yazars13 karma

How did you develop your foundation in cooking? That is, how much of it was self-taught, family influence, and/or formal or professional training despite being young?

tarte-aux-pommes25 karma

A little bit of all of those things! I consider myself very self motivated and obsessive about my interests, so a lot of my knowledge is from YouTube, cookbooks, online personalities, watching other chefs on TV, etc. But cooking plays a big role in my family as well.

We received a lot of guidance on MasterChef and that helped build a decent foundation, but I didn't truly feel competent in my culinary abilities until two or three years ago.

ButDidYouCry13 karma

I hope this isn't a repeat question but what is your favorite kind of protein to cook and your favorite method of preparing that protein?

tarte-aux-pommes34 karma

Venison loin! I reverse sear it in the oven at like 225 degrees F, wrapped in parchment paper with butter, thyme and garlic. I probe it with an internal thermometer and when it reaches 130F or so, take it out and sear it in a really hot steel pan with butter. It's the juiciest, most flavorful meat you'll ever taste. It's good if you use the extra fat to make a roux with some flour, and deglaze with beef stock.

ReadIt2MeAgain12 karma

My partner got upset watching the most recent season since he said some of the challenges are too harsh for kids to go through. Have you seen anything on other seasons that you think seem harder than what you went through on your own? Specifically any that you know would have been too much for you at that age?

tarte-aux-pommes23 karma

Recent seasons definitely have a lot more episodes and challenges. I don't know if I would've been able to handle all the team challenges as I'm kind of an introvert and struggle working with people sometimes. I think it's good to show kids the reality of the industry though.

tripleaxel1311 karma

Hi Nathan!! Your season was the first MasterChef Jr. I ever watched :D My almost 5 year old son has showed a huge interest in cooking but I'm never sure where to start with teaching him. Any advice for what might be good to start teaching him first?

tarte-aux-pommes16 karma

Eggs are my favorite place to teach new home cooks the basics. Start with scrambled, and then work your way up to more difficult preparations. Maybe hold off on teaching knife skills until he's a bit older, unless he seems confident.

Baking is a lot of fun to do with kids as well, especially easy stuff like cookies or muffins.

IntensityJokester11 karma

Great answers, this has been a really enjoyable read.

I lived in really rural Japan for six years, the food was incredible. I got much more into dining after that!

My family and I are headed to Paris soon. It’s our first trip there. I have heard the bakeries are wonderful for breakfast and you can get tasty sandwiches for lunch, but what would you recommend for dinner?

I don’t mean restaurant recs (but they would be welcome!) - I just mean, what sorts of meals should I try to eat there? It is a major city so I know you can get anything, but I would feel guilty if I went to Paris and ate only sushi and pasta dishes all week!

tarte-aux-pommes15 karma

Very cool! I see we've had similar experiences. We're also heading to Paris in October on our trip to Amsterdam, I'm planning on stuffing as many croque monsieurs and macarons into my mouth as humanly possible.

Funkit10 karma

Well since nobody seemed to bring it up and I think it’s important and healthy to discuss; what’s going on with your mental health? Are you doing alright?

tarte-aux-pommes19 karma

I'm a lot better these days, but when I was still in Japan things were pretty rough. I was cut off from my support system and because of the pandemic I felt all alone at times. I was so busy and caught up in work that I missed my dad's birthday once. I love my parents but sometimes I could only muster up the energy to contact them once every week or two. I didn't like the person I was becoming because of my job, but now that I'm back home with the people I care about I feel like I'm reverting back to my old self.

anon499110 karma

You look majestic. Where did you get your human?

tarte-aux-pommes14 karma

He's adopted.

FamousMonkey4110 karma

After your experience in Japan, would you say you still love cooking?

tarte-aux-pommes24 karma

Yes, but not for money anymore. I think I have workplace-related PTSD so being in professional kitchens makes me really anxious. I still love doing it at home though.

Smokron8510 karma

What's the cats name?

tarte-aux-pommes31 karma

His name is Cosmo. The day I found him I was doing some witchy shit and I lit some incense, read some tarot, burnt a grey candle and asked the universe for clarity. He appeared mysteriously in our backyard an hour later without any identification and is the friendliest kitty I've ever encountered. I'm convinced I manifested him.


Do you keep in touch with any of your competitors on your season?

tarte-aux-pommes18 karma

They're all pretty busy these days with school and their own lives, but I try to reach out once in a while and still talk to some people on occasion.

theantdog8 karma

What's your chicken salad recipe?

tarte-aux-pommes44 karma

I don't eat chicken salad. I think mayonnaise is kind of nasty tbh

mshelbz29 karma

As a fellow white guy who hate mayo I just want you to know there are dozens of us!

tarte-aux-pommes13 karma

I'm so glad it's not just me. Small quantities and when it's mixed with Sriracha or something is okay, but large amounts of it make me nauseous.

RubberFistOfJustice3 karma

Sub with hummus my friend

tarte-aux-pommes4 karma


FaceDownInTheCake8 karma

Are you going to open a restaurant? If so, what type?

tarte-aux-pommes24 karma

Eventually, maybe. It'll probably be heavily kaiseki influenced, incorporating French techniques and fine dining culture. I'll base the cuisine on whatever's local where I open it.

I don't have the details worked out yet 😅

jfirstcode7 karma

Where is that shirt from? I've got to know

tarte-aux-pommes20 karma

I bought it at a secondhand store in Toyama. I'll never find anything like it again and it's my favorite shirt so thank you for noticing :)

shiverhype225 karma

What's your favorite spot to eat in San Diego??

tarte-aux-pommes12 karma

Kettner Exchange in Little Italy! I actually worked there for a bit, their food is outstanding and the vibe is immaculate.

baltinerdist3 karma

There's a video that circulates reddit every now and then of a MCJ contestant who couldn't get a jar open and asks her dad in the audience to do it. Would that have been considered against the rules? Are there any rules about helping each other, getting a bit of help from the judges, etc? Or was it mostly "hey, this looks good for TV, do it" kind of thing?

tarte-aux-pommes3 karma

We were kids, it wasn't that strict! haha

The time limits were definitely enforced but the competition wasn't unnecessarily cutthroat. The judges may have offered verbal help on occasion but they never really stepped in unless something disastrous happened like a fire.

ZakRoM2 karma

I love cooking my own food, an issue I've always have is I don't like vegetables, like I don't like how they look and that makes it pretty hard to eat. What's and advice you would give to someone to start cooking and eating more vegetables?

Another one related to Master Chef, between episodes do you receive any lessons? Or you guys have to do all the studying and the overall improvement is all done by yourselves?

tarte-aux-pommes2 karma

Chop them up super small and hide them in pasta sauce, soup, gravy, cake, bread, muffins, and with ground meat. You'll never notice ;)

Kivadavia2 karma

Is there something you miss where you've worked?

tarte-aux-pommes2 karma

The building I worked in was the most beautiful, serene property I've ever laid eyes on. The garden was well manicured too, and there were elaborate flower arrangements and expensive items all over the place. I just miss the opulence.

judyz152 karma

What got you into cooking? And whats your fav cuisine to make? I'm been into cooking for a few years now and I like cooking chinese and Italian food.

tarte-aux-pommes2 karma

Eating got me into cooking. I just wanted to recreate delicious food for myself at home. Favorite cuisine is probably Japanese but I love French and Italian as well.

STylerMLmusic2 karma

How does it feel having your restaurant so excellently rated by a company known for its tires?

tarte-aux-pommes2 karma

Not my restaurant so unfortunately I can't take the credit. Would love to meet the squishy tire guy someday though.

Corpshark2 karma

Do you feel that a professional restaurant chef is a profession that you would stay engaged in (lifestyle-wise)?

tarte-aux-pommes2 karma

Not unless I'm top dog and can delegate most of the jobs in the kitchen to other people. I just want to hang out, maybe break down fish or plate something when I feel like it, and make sure the kitchen runs properly.

If I'm being honest I do kind of miss how fast-paced and fun kitchen life was. I may consider it again one day.

uncleshiesty2 karma

What are your favorite places in San Diego to eat?

tarte-aux-pommes2 karma

Kettner Exchange, Santouka Ramen, Tanuki Sake Bar, Chicken Pie Shop

JsDaFax2 karma

What inspired you to become a chef?

tarte-aux-pommes3 karma

Pure circumstance and spontaneity! I just took it and ran with it

SpringLover4551 karma

What was your favorite challenge on Masterchef Jr.?

tarte-aux-pommes2 karma

The finale. It was 90 minutes of pure adrenaline.

knickovthyme1-39 karma

I’m sorry, I am sure you are quite good but a true Master Chef works for years to get the respect and Certificate of such. There is and never was a “Master Chef Junior “. It is just a made up TV title that really disrespects the true Chef. Have you ever even worked in a real restaurant? Again I’m sure that you are very good at what you do but the title does not fit.

tarte-aux-pommes7 karma

I worked at a 3 Michelin for two years. Says so in the title.

I can break down a fish in like a minute. I'll butcher a fucking chicken with my eyes closed. I'll run a ten seat restaurant by myself without issue. Try me :)