In case you missed MasterChef Junior last season, one of Marin’s own, Samuel Stromberg of Greenbrae, stole the show. While he just missed the grand prize in a difficult challenge judged by TV’s notorious mean-guy chef, Gordon Ramsay, Stromberg won the hearts of many, learned some valuable lessons and found Ramsay to be quite friendly. A seventh-grader at the R.E.A.L. School Marin in Larkspur, Samuel lives with his older brother Jake and parents in Greenbrae and, besides having some wicked nitrous oxide skills, considers himself a regular kid who simply loves to cook.
When did you learn to cook?
I started teaching myself when I was about 9.
Do you cook for your family?
Yes, whenever I can.
What life lessons did you bring home from your MasterChef Junior experience?
How to think on your feet and if you make a mistake — which you will — just keep moving on.
Was there a particular mistake you remember?
Yep, the signature dish: I rushed it, burnt a blood orange glaze, and had to reinvent the dish from the remaining ingredients at my station, and from that I learned to take my time — it was the trickiest challenge.
Do you keep in touch with people from the show?
As far as the kids, there are a few of us who Skype and talk regularly; we share recipes and some of the kids came out for my bar mitzvah. As far as the adults, I really connected with Graham Elliot; I appreciated his warmth and guidance and try to stay in touch with him.
I met Charles Phan from Slanted Door at a book signing and connected with him.
I really like Left Bank in Larkspur, Slanted Door and Rich Table in San Francisco — there are also so many great pho places in the East Bay.
Besides chefs do you have any heroes?
Well we are Packer fans, so Aaron Rodgers.
OK, then what cookbook would you get your mom and then Aaron Rodgers?
For my mom, Manresa, and for Aaron Rodgers, definitely something by Yotam Ottolenghi.
If you could work in any kitchen?
We got to visit Bouchon, and the way it was laid out was like a dream.
How would you make a PB&J?
I make my own peanut butter and here’s the trick: toast the peanuts in a wok with a little honey before grinding the nuts, and keep some on the side to fold in with the mixture. The jelly, Bonne Maman or if possible fresh orange marmalade, and then I would use a whole-grain bread.
Mac ’n’ cheese?
I would make the mac-and-cheese with several different types of cheeses to give it an interesting flavor — I love to use manchego, along with cheddar and jack — served with something light like cauliflower tabouleh or a snow pea salad.
Favorite breakfast, lunch and dinner at a restaurant in Marin?
I love breakfast at Farm House Local, especially their cappuccinos. Lunch, a sandwich at Emporio Rulli, and dinner at Left Bank.