An Esquimalt High student recently made his TV debut on the teen version of the popular cooking show, Chopped Canada.
Seventeen-year-old Léon Buser-Rivet wowed judges with his knife-handling skills, as one of four competitors in season two of Chopped Canada Teen earlier this month, appearing in the episode Mirin, Mirin On the Wall.
“My goal is to become the next TV cooking mogul, bigger than Gordon Ramsey,” he said in the episode, which aired on Saturday, Feb. 11 on the Food Network.
In Chopped Canada Teen, the youth version of Chopped, 20 of the country’s top teenage cooks battle it out in the kitchen to win a $10,000 prize. Each episode features four chefs between the ages of 14 and 17, who face off under a tight timeline to transform baskets of mystery ingredients into a three-course meal.
Each dish — appetizer, entree and dessert — are judged on presentation, taste and creativity, and after every course, a chef is “chopped.”
Buser-Rivet faced off against 16-year-olds Nathan Graff-Rowe from Waterloo and Chris Lexovsky from Toronto, as well as 17-year-old Pauline Cotter from Fort Erie.
Buser-Rivet’s passion for cooking was first ignited after he baked cinnamon pastries, a recipe from his father’s cookbook, at the age of seven. The youngster was always enthralled by how fast his father could chop ingredients and shortly after, began buying his own knives to hone his skills.
“Being able to explore cooking was one of the things that interested me so much because there’s endless possibilities. There’s always new recipes, new ingredients, new techniques, new equipment, new restaurants, new styles of food,” Buser-Rivet told the Victoria News.
Esquimalt High culinary instructor Brandon Aris said Buser-Rivet is one of the most talented students he’s taught since Aris came to the school five years ago.
“He’s got a pretty substantial knowledge of how things go, and at a young age, that’s pretty impressive to see,” Aris said. “There’s not a lot of kids at this age who can do the things he can do at this point. You’ve got to have the passion and desire to want to do it and he’s got that.”
His skills were put to the test on Chopped Canada Teen.
The young chefs’ first task was to make an appetizer using assorted fruit chews, seafood salad, whole wheat mini pita, and berbere.
After a nerve-wracking 30 minutes in the Chopped kitchen, Buser-Rivet’s created an asian seafood salad with apple fruit chew kohlrabi.
While judges enjoyed the dish, particularly the pickled kohlrabi, in the end, they felt Buser-Rivet didn’t elevate the three other basket ingredients and was chopped after the first round.
But the quick exit hasn’t dampened Buser-Rivet’s spirits and upon graduation this year, he hopes to continue working in the industry, travelling and learning new cooking techniques, possibly in Europe.
Buser-Rivet was one of four competitors from the province, and the only one from Vancouver Island to compete in this season of Chopped Canada Teen. But he isn’t the only one from the Island to appear on the popular cooking show. In the past, Daniel Hudson from Duncan, Kate Dean from Parksville, Lynda Smith from Comox, and Kevin Koohtow from Victoria appeared on Chopped Canada.