12-year-old chef from Ann Arbor wins big money on Food Network's 'Chopped Junior'

Posted: 3:05 PM, Jul 18, 2016
Updated: 2016-07-19 01:37:51Z

A 12-year-old chef from Ann Arbor "burns" the competition on Food Network's "Chopped Junior."

It's a TV cooking show for contestants to show off their chops while cooking with surprise ingredients.

"I think it's kind of fun to create dishes to see flavors and how it will turn out," said Nicholas Bruzzano. "My ultimate goal is to be a Restauranteur with many restaurants."

Melissa Bruzzano is Nicholas's Mom.

"He started cooking when he was two," she explained. "When he was five he did this really amazing fish dish for 12 people."

Nicholas's family have been very supportive of his dreams to be a chef.

They encouraged him to compete on Chopped Junior.

"I think I did pretty good. There's definitely a lot of stuff I can improve on," Nicholas said.

On the show, contestants are given surprise ingredients.

During our interview, Nicholas made us filet minion, potato and asparagus.

We decided to put him through the grinder with some of our own surprise ingredients of
popcorn, cereal and gummy fruit snacks.

Nicholas has been taking cooking lessons with Brandon Johns, Chef and Owner of Grange Kitchen & Bar for the past two years.

Johns said, "If you are going to be successful at anything you have to passionate about cooking. He has that and then some."

Nicholas burned the competition, winning $10,000 and bragging rights.

He has advice for other children interested in cooking.

"Really try hard and give your all to it," Nicholas said.

Steak recipe with the secret ingredients below: 

Serves 1 - multiply for additional servings


For the Filet: 
1 Filet Mignon (about 1 1/2 inch thick)
Ground Fennel Seed
Cereal (some type of sweet O shaped cereal) (mystery ingredient)
Olive Oil

For the Potatoes
1 Potato cut into a small dice
Ground Fennel Seed
Olive Oil

For the Asparagus
4 or 5 Stalks of Small Asparagus
For the Sauce
1/4 cup of Champagne
Juice of 1/2 a Lemon
6 Gummy Candies (mystery ingredient)

For the Garnish
1 Quail Egg
Microwave Popcorn (mystery ingredient)
3 Pansies or other edible flower
1/4 cup Softened Butter
Thyme - about 2 teaspoons
1 Teaspoon Red Wine

Preparing the Filet
Grind the cereal to a powder in a food processor. Season the filet with salt, pepper, ground fennel seed, and coat the filet in cereal powder. Heat up cast iron skillet with olive oil on high heat until hot (the steak will sizzle when you put it on the pan if it is ready). Turn the flame to medium high and put the filet on the pan until seared to a nice dark brown, flip it and sear the other side. Also, sear the other sides about 5 seconds all the way around until a golden brown. Take the filet off the pan to rest for about 5 minutes. (Make the sauce now - see below)

Preparing the Potatoes
Heat olive oil in a small saucepan with a tall side on high heat. When it is hot, add the potatoes (put one in first to see if the oil is hot enough - it is hot enough if the oil bubbles when the potato is added). Sprinkle with salt, paprika, pepper, and ground fennel seed directly into the potatoes as they are cooking and stir. When the potatoes are golden brown, remove with a slotted spoon and put into a bowl with paper towels to drain the oil. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary.

Preparing the Asparagus
Heat 1/2 a tablespoon or so of butter in a pan on medium heat. Add the asparagus when the butter has melted and stir. Remove when crispy but not soggy - it doesn’t take long.

Preparing the Sauce
Add champagne to the pan that you cooked the filet in to deglaze it. Add the gummy candies and lemon and melt the candies. Add Salt and Pepper to taste. Stir and set aside until ready to plate.

Preparing the Garnish
Heat a pan on medium heat with olive oil, when it is ready a drop of water will sizzle. Cook the quail egg sunny side up - it doesn’t long so watch it. When done, remove and set aside to plate. Work the wine and thyme into the butter with your hands until mixed. Cook the popcorn in the microwave.

Put the potatoes on a plate. Slice the filet mignon against the grain and put on top of potatoes. Add asparagus spears on top and next to one side of the filet. Top with the egg, a pinch of micro greens and the flowers. Shape some of the butter mixture into and oval and put it on top and then drizzle the plate with the sauce. Crush the popcorn and sprinkle it on the plate along with salt and pepper.