A chat with... Maizy Boosin
Correction: Maizy Boosin’s name was incorrectly spelled as Boozin.
Maizy Boosin is an unusually busy eighth-grader. The New Canaan Country School student takes six or seven hours of dance a week, acted in her first off-Broadway play this summer, keeps up with her homework and, this past summer, found time to win an episode of the Food Network’s “Chopped Jr.”
Boosin, who lives in Westport with her mother, father and younger sister, started cooking at 7 when a health condition limited what she could eat. Now, at 13, Boosin takes on chef duties at home most nights, and on weekends often wakes up late to a hungry family waiting impatiently for her to cook them breakfast.
But Boosin does not feel overburdened by the culinary expectations placed on her by family and friends. Cooking, Boosin said, is her favorite thing to do. “When I’m cooking, I light up,” she said on Sept. 19 from the lobby of the Country School’s Grace House.
Q: How did you find yourself on Chopped Jr?
A: There was an open call to be on Chopped and without telling me my mom applied for me. She called me one day while I was at dance and said, ‘I have big news. I put in an application for you to be on Chopped and I got a letter back instantly from the producers saying they want to Skype interview you and want you to make a cooking demo and maybe be in the episode.’
Everything happened between March and August. I applied in march, got in in April, filmed at Chelsea Market in New York City in May and waited for a few months until August when it aired.
Q: Who were you competing against? How does the competition work?
A: I’m 13 and I was competing against two 12-year-olds and one 13-year-old.
There are four kids in each episode, and it’s not like “Master Chef” or “Project Runway” where there are tons of people and it takes a season to name a winner. There’s a winner every episode. So there were four other people and three rounds: an appetizer, entree and dessert. Someone was eliminated after each course until it was two people making dessert.
Q: What foods did you make?
A: In the first round I had beef satay, gluten-free pancake mix —I was happy because I’m gluten free — pink grapefruit and a giant three-and-a-half pound peanut butter cup. I hate peanut butter so that was a challenge. I made scallion pancakes with a Thai peanut sauce and grapefruit-marinated beef satay. They really liked the sauce!
In the next round I had pork porterhouse, Wasabi candy, cured olives and brazen greens. I made a mustard-marinated pork chop with a brazen green salad with Wasabi-vinagrette. The olives were in the salad. I wasn’t very confident with that one, but they liked it.
For dessert, I had passion fruit, rice cakes, pink marshmallows and coffee creamer. I made a strawberry passion fruit crumble with the top of the rice cake as the top of the crumble and a lemon basil whipped ricotta with the coffee creamer.
Q: Was there any point when you saw your ingredients and thought, “What could I possibly make with this?”
A: Kind of in the entree. I was very intimidated by the cut of pork because I had never worked with it before. It had the bone in it and it freaked me out. But it turned out for the better because I was able to butcher it, so there was no bone in it and so I didn’t have to cook the bone.
Q: Was it nerve-wracking having the judges critique your cooking on television?
A: It wasn’t that nerve-wracking for me because I perform and I’m used to people watching me all the time. That’s why I think I did so well in the competition, because it didn’t trip me up having five people with their cameras over my head and behind me. I thought it was awesome.
Maneet (Chauhan) is my favorite judge on Chopped and I got to meet her. I loved it. And I like getting feedback too to see how I can make it better.
Q: In what other ways do you perform?
A: I dance a lot, and I act. Over the summer I was in an off-Broadway show in the New York Musical Festival. I had a good part in it and the original Matilda from “Matilda” on Broadway played my best friend and we were both mentioned in the New York Times which was very, very exciting for me.
Q: Which takes precedence: Cooking, dancing or acting?
A: I’ve got to say cooking is my main thing; it’s my favorite thing to do. But acting and dance are a close second. I take 6 or 7 hours of dance a week and I go on acting auditions a lot. They’re kind of all tied but they spike up and spike down at different times. Cooking right now is my number one.
Q: When did you start cooking?
A: When I was 7 and I was diagnosed with celiac disease. I became gluten free and I hated it. I didn’t like not being able to eat cake. So I started to cook and bake.
Q: Do you find it easier now that you’ve learned to cook to manage your celiac disease?
A: It’s gotten so much easier since I was 7, because more people have been diagnosed. I was diagnosed kind of at the beginning and there were only a few types of pastas, and they were all weird, so it just wasn’t the best. Now there are so many great foods. A lot of restaurants can actually do anything gluten free as long as they have the right cross contamination standards.
Q: Do you see yourself becoming an advocate for gluten-free cooking?
A: I would love to do that. I got involved a little after I won the $10,000 by donating some to the National Celiac Disease Foundation. That’s the main goal. I love cooking, but I love to spread awareness for celiac.
Q: Did you get together with a group of people to watch the show?
A: We had a viewing party at my house with 50-something people. We bought a projector and projector screen and watched it in our living room. None of the room except for my parents and sister and cousin knew the results, so it was the best thing. When Ted (Allen, the host) said, ‘and that means Maizy Boosin, you are the “Chopped Jr.” champion,’ it was the best thing I’ve ever experienced in my life — to have everyone there in one room supporting me.