Catching up with our Local Tween Chopped Junior Champion

. December 2, 2016.
Photo Credit: Brett Moyer
Photo Credit: Brett Moyer

This past October, local Ann Arborite and Chopped Junior Champion tween, Chef Nicholas Bruzzano, teamed up with his mentor, celebrated local Chef Brandon Johns of Grange Kitchen & Bar to create a deliciously unique farm-to-table four-course treat in Ypsilanti for a good cause: Growing Hope’s Chefs In the Garden Dinner on the Farm.

The evening dining extravaganza, the second of an extremely popular monthly dinner series event where guests enjoy a gourmet farm-to-table meal prepared by celebrated regional chefs, was created to benefit Growing Hope so that they may continue with their mission of helping “people improve their lives and communities through gardening and increasing access to healthy food.”

When the 12-year-old culinary champion, Chef Nicholas Bruzzano, heard that his mentor would be cooking with this year’s team, he stepped up to the plate to see if he could assist in any way. Ann Arbor Family caught up with Nicholas assisting Chef Johns on-site at the Growing Hope fundraiser to find out how life has been for the eighth-grade Tappan Middle School student since winning Chopped Junior this past July.

Why are you here today at Growing Hope?
I really love to cook and last year I went to Growing Hope’s Chefs In the Garden Dinner on the Farm dinner and it was really great. I’ve been working with Chef Johns, and we asked if I could help and he let me. I’m super thankful and I think it’s going to be really fun!

How have things changed for you since you were in Chopped Junior? 
I’ve gotten more publicity and it’s been really cool. I’ve been in touch with other chefs and have started filming cooking videos on YouTube. I’ve also done a lot of demonstrations and interviews– it’s helped me to reach my goals and boost my career.  My goal is to be a restaurateur in the future.

When did you first know that you wanted to be in the field of culinary arts?
I knew this is what I wanted to do around age 9. I’m 12 right now and turning 13 in late October.  I used to only eat rice and tofu so my mom introduced me to the Food Network program Chopped and we started playing “Chopped” at home with a basket. My mom would put different ingredients, like tomatoes, squash and all of these other ingredients that I would otherwise never eat into the basket for me to cook. She must have known that if I cooked it, I would always eat it. I started eating a bunch of other foods and now I love a variety like asparagus, squash, and filet mignon. 

What is your favorite dish to cook?
I love to cook farm-to-table, so– whatever is out of the farmer’s market. But my favorite dish, if I had to choose, would be butter sautéed asparagus, filet mignon and de glace sauce with crispy, pan-fried, diced potatoes.

So what’s next, Chopped Junior champion?
I want get out there, prove my skills, and let people know more about my cooking.  My parents always support me, which has helped, and if I have the drive then I know I will achieve my goal.

You can follow Nicholas Bruzzano on social media:
Chef Nicholas has a twitter account @Chef_Bruzzano;
a YouTube Channel called Nicholas Bruzzano,
an Instagram account @chef_bruzzano; and a Facebook page @Chef Nicholas.