Written by Stephanie Taylor, Tuscaloosa News
Tuscaloosa has one more champion among the city’s ranks. Seventh-grader Fuller Goldsmith impressed the country, and more importantly the judges of Food Network’s “Chopped Junior”, on Tuesday night’s episode of the show.
Fuller, 13, defeated three competitors to earn the title of Chopped Junior Champion, creating three dishes from mystery ingredients within a 30-minute time period for each round.
“I’m so pumped, I could run a million miles right now,” Fuller said after he was named the champ.
The competition came down between Goldsmith and 10-year-old Kaylee Roop, from Hays, North Carolina. Their southern upbringing no doubt helped with the theme of the episode, in which every course contained a fried item.
Fuller remained confident through the competition, only showing some apprehension at the end when the judges said his beignet was a bit undercooked.
He started off the competition strong: cracking open a beer to prepare beer-battered catfish and okra with greens and a sour cream sauce.
“Fuller’s body language is like that of a line cook, he’s like a pro,” host Ted Allen said as Goldsmith added balsamic vinegar and garlic to the sour cream sauce.
“He obviously knows about the clock, but he’s not frantic,” said judge Zachary Quinto, who played Spock on the recent series of “Star Trek” films, and also the villain Skylar from the TV series “Heroes.” Quinto had an unpleasant childhood experience with okra, but said he was pleasantly surprised by Fuller’s preparation.
The young chef attributed his cool in the kitchen to his experience preparing food for football tailgates with his father Scott, a shareholder at JamisonMoneyFarmer.
“I do keep my cool under pressure,” he said. “If I can handle my tailgates, I can handle the Chopped Junior kitchen.”
For the entrée round, Fuller prepared a “Corn chick”: chicken tenders battered with hush puppy batter, with a cauliflower, potato and pimiento cheese puree served with asparagus.
Judge Alex Guarnaschelli praised the chicken as perfectly cooked. For dessert, Fuller prepared powdered sugar beignets with walnut and raspberry ice cream puree, defeating his competitors jelly doughnuts with walnuts and cereal.
Fuller said competing on the show had been a dream since he watched episodes while being treated for childhood leukemia. He’s now in remission, but still on steroids that cause swelling.
“But every time I cook, I always feel great,” he said on the show. “I was watching ‘Chopped Junior’ when I was sick and now I’m here, living it out. It’s a dream come true.”
Fuller wants to open a restaurant and call it Fuller, using the slogan “Why be full when you can be fuller?” He said he will donate some of the $10,000 prize money to Fuller’s Fund, which goes to the Hope and Cope Fund, Division of Hematology and Pediatric Oncology at Children’s of Alabama hospital, to assist families like the Goldsmiths. He also wants to take his family on a vacation.
Friends and family gathered to watch the show at Southern Ale House Tuesday night, but they weren’t allowed to reveal the outcome ahead of time.
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