Beef Wellington is a dish Mark Coblentz will remember for a long time to come. It happens to be the challenge that led to his ouster from “MasterChef Junior” April 13. But Coblentz, 14, has plenty to be proud of. Out of hundreds of aspiring young cooks who auditioned for season five of the competitive cooking show on Fox, the Starkville teen was among 40 selected to vie for coveted Top 20 aprons. As contestants faced weekly culinary challenges and eliminations, Coblentz displayed his skills and survived the cuts to advance to the prestigious Top 10.
The Armstrong Middle School student calls his “MasterChef Junior” experience in Los Angeles an “amazing adventure.” He learned much from well-known chefs and show hosts Gordon Ramsay and Christina Tosi. He also had the opportunity to meet guest judges including chefs Aaron Sanchez and Richard Blais as well as actresses Mayim Bialik (“The Big Bang Theory”) and Julie Bowen (“Modern Family”).
Among his favorite highlights were the show’s team challenges.
“I enjoy working with others, and just having to complete so many dishes in a set amount of time pushed my limits,” Coblentz said Wednesday. Those team challenges included prepping and cooking a meal of filet mignon, two sides and a sauce for more than 50 first responders, all within 75 minutes. Another timed task required contestants to make bone-in pork chops with two sides for 50 Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and their leaders.
Of the individual tests, “The Beef Wellington was the most challenging,” said the teen. “I think I can cook pretty well, but all the extra touches, that’s something I struggle with.” Far from holding a grudge against the dish, Coblentz looks forward to perfecting it. “I like to challenge myself, so I would definitely try it again; I learned from that.” He comes away from the show with increased knowledge and confidence, especially when it comes to meats.
“After cooking about 65 filet mignons and about the same number of pork chops, I think I understand cooking beef and pork better,” he said. He honed his skills in food presentation and in work station clean-up, too, he said.
The Starkville teen hopes to channel his passion into one day opening his “first restaurant” in his hometown.
“I want it to be upscale Southern, something like fried chicken, fried catfish and soul food upscaled with a little French influence,” he said. And he wouldn’t be averse, he added, to expanding his restaurants into other Southern states as well.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.