ASHLAND — An Ashland middle schooler who teamed up with her grandmother to star in reality TV show “Top Chef Family Style” may not have taken the cake, but she cooked up some delicious memories .
Brooke Nathanson, 13, and her grandmother Carol Weiss, 75, took on a dozen other pairs from across the country on the Peacock network show. The two were sent home after Brooke started feeling ill during the third episode that aired on Thursday.
The show premiered on September 9, beginning with 13 pairs of young chefs accompanied by a family member. As of Thursday, the cast was down to 11 pairs, all competing for a grand prize of $50,000.
The episode featured the contestants preparing plant-based dishes for the judges, which included Grammy-winning singer Meghan Trainor, acclaimed chef Marcus Samuelsson and Los Angeles Rams linebacker Kenny Young.
Competitors were tasked with not only preparing food for themselves, but also for the rest of the Rams draft class that day – plus 50 National Football League fans.
Previous cover: ‘That Was Crazy’: Ashland Teens Team Up With Grandma In ‘Top Chef Family Style’
Actress and social media personality Tabitha Brown, known for her vegan cooking videos, was a guest judge for this round, which took place outdoors in the warm, summery weather with grills and fryers sizzling around the competitors.
“I don’t know anything about plant life,” Brooke, who was 12 at the time of filming, joked to the cameras.
“It will be in our memories for a lifetime”
In the first round, the pairs were tasked with preparing an appetizer. Brooke and Weiss decided to make gazpacho, which is Brooke’s dad’s favorite dish. Specifically, the duo produced avocado and croton gazpacho shooters.
Of the six favorite dishes the judges selected, theirs was not announced, which sent them on the Ave Maria round where they were given a chance at redemption by preparing a grilled plant-based dish.
However, at the start of the round, Brooke started to turn as “white as a ghost,” Weiss said on the show. Feeling weak, Brooke was led to a nearby awning to cool off and was told she was likely dehydrated.
From there, she was taken in for evaluation while the other contestants continued to cook. For this reason, the judges sent the couple home that day without allowing them to return to prepare their dish.
The chefs with the lowest score from this round were spared from going home due to the judges’ decision.
When the contestants returned to the main area that day, Brooke and Weiss joined the group for the last time to say goodbye. Brooke also told the group that she felt much better – she had gotten too hot, she said.
“Pushing me through this competition for Brooke has truly been a joy – it will be remembered for a lifetime,” Weiss said at the end of the episode, in tears.
Not only was it sizzling around 100 degrees that day, but the extra heat from nearby blazing grills didn’t help, Brooke said in a recent interview.
“I’m just so glad I didn’t get kicked out for my cooking,” said Brooke, an eighth grader at Ashland Middle School. “But I think there’s more for me in the future.”
Her favorite dish to make from the show was Lemon Pistachio Biscotti, which she made in the second episode.
During the elimination round of the second episode, contestants were tasked with creating a luxurious dish that showcased a stimulating high-end ingredient.
Brooke and Weiss made lemon mousse mousse with candied pistachios, using a recipe Weiss has been making for 30 years.
Guest judges for this round included Jesse Tyler Ferguson of “Modern Family” and two-star Michelin chef Josiah Citrin. Ferguson said he often finds the biscotti difficult to make, but praised the fluffiness of the pistachio biscotti.
“I was like, ‘This better be the best cookie ever,’ and it was!” said Meghan Trainor after taking a bite. Brooke and Weiss were also the only pair to make dessert on this round.
The contestants don’t know how the judges will like their meal until the finished episodes air, Brooke said. Watching their reactions on her TV screen was surreal, she said.
The hardest dish to cook on the show was the plant-based meal because she usually cooks with a lot of meats, she said.
Other dishes prepared by the couple on the show included steak mashed potatoes with strings of fried onions, which was a challenge to create a dish featuring their favorite food combination.
For the first elimination challenge, they were asked to turn a favorite family recipe into a five-star dish. Brooke and Weiss made stuffed prawns, a recipe from Weiss’s mother, with mango orzo and apricot sauce – which Meghan Trainor said added more flavor to the dish.
Being on the show was a pledge of confidence
Through it all, being on the reality show was a source of confidence, said Brooke, who dreams of becoming a professional chef when she’s older. She even currently runs her own online business called B Sweet by Brooke where she makes decadent cakes and other treats.
“I learned a lot about cooking and how TV works, and I gained a lot of confidence being there,” she said. “I fell in love with it.”
Since the show, she still keeps in touch with the other contestants and has notably befriended Eva Kopelman, a 14-year-old from Long Island, New York, who is still on the show with her mother, Jenn.
Although Brooke no longer serves up culinary creations on the reality show, you can still find out what she cooks by following @officialchefbrooke on Instagram or visiting bsweetbybrooke.com to purchase one of her cakes.
Lauren Young writes about business and pop culture. Reach her at 774-804-1499 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurenwhy__.