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Catching Up with Alexander Weiss, MasterChef Junior Season 1 Winner

A year after he claimed the title in season 1 of MasterChef Junior, 14-year-old Alexander Weiss of Manhattan is cooking alongside professional chefs, jet-setting all over the world with his family, and dreaming bigger than ever.

alexander weiss masterchef junior

As MasterChef Junior prepares to welcome its Season 2 contestants (including locals Josh Reisner, Adaiah Stevens, and Isabella Velez from the NYC area!) on November 4, we took a moment to catch up with Season 1 champ Alexander Weiss, who hails from the Manhattan's Upper East Side. You'll be wowed by what this young teen has accomplished just one year after his debut in the culinary spotlight!


Q: What have you been up to since winning season 1 of MasterChef Junior?
I’ve had so many amazing opportunities. I’ve been on the adult season of MasterChef, I went to Indonesia with my mom to be a guest star on their MasterChef Junior series, I went to a Riviera Maya resort in Mexico with my dad to do some cooking demos. November 8th through the 15th, I’m going on a MasterChef cruise to the Caribbean.

Beyond that, I’ve had the opportunity to jump into a few restaurant kitchens and find out what cuisine I like to cook. I spent a day at Joe Bastianich’s restaurant, Del Posto, and helped out with dinner prep. It was cool because Del Posto is one of the biggest restaurants in NYC, space-wise—the kitchen is actually double the size of the dining room.

Q: Are there any chefs you look up to or consider as mentors?
Chef Ian Gresik of Drago Centro in Los Angeles has become a mentor. I met him during the Restaurant Takeover challenge [in Season 1 of MasterChef Junior]. He’s my go-to guy. He writes down all his recipes, which a lot of chefs don’t do, and if I ask how to make something he’ll send me the recipe. In June, we cooked a private dinner at his restaurant for about 35 people.

I’m also good friends with Dominique Ansel [maker of the cronut]—I’m a big fan of his amazing pastries.

Q: Do you plan to open your own restaurant one day?
Hopefully in my mid-20s I’ll be able to open a restaurant. I want to make sure I have everything I need to make it successful. In high school, I’m taking business classes—it’s pretty cool to learn about money and economics, and that will help me a lot. And I’ll still want to go to college to learn about the business side of hospitality.

Q: You’re a freshman in high school. Is it hard to juggle school and cooking?
It’s difficult. I still cook dinners at night, but I don’t have as much time to create. I want to have time for after-school programs—I’m planning to join the fencing team this winter, and I still like to swim and hang out with my friends.

My friends in high school are asking me to cook for them. In middle school, I made a croquembouche
during Christmastime and brought in macaroons to my French class.

Q: Where is your favorite place to eat in the city?
My favorite restaurant to go for fine dining would be Del Posto. I also love to go with my family to Jones Wood Foundry on the Upper East Side. It’s classic British food, simple and well done. The chef, Jason Hicks, owns The Peacock downtown and The Shakespeare on 39th Street. It’s cool to see people who have built these little empires for themselves.

Q: How do you come up with your recipes?
When I get an idea for a recipe, I write it down on my phone or on a piece of paper and save it somewhere safe.

Q: Do you cook with your mom and dad?
My mom is the baker in the family. I started baking when I was about 3 or 4, and I thought my dream would be to be a pastry chef and open up a pastry shop, but then as I got older I got interested in cooking. My dad is a big fan of Lidia Bastianich and Emeril Lagasse—watching them on TV was how he got into cooking.


Talking with Susie Kerr, Alexander’s Mom

Q: How did you help Alexander prepare for MasterChef Junior?
When it comes to baking, I schooled him before he got to the show. We had the timer going in the kitchen a few nights here, because we wanted him to really mind the time. I was always behind him, saying, ‘You have to incorporate faster.’ I have to admit, he makes the pie dough quicker than I do now.

Q: Were you surprised when he won the competition?
Well, you go in there preparing to win. I knew his talent and passion. He never watched cartoons—I’d come home to him watching the Food Network. But once he was on the show, he took in everything like a sponge. His dad and I would look at each other and say, “Wow, where’d he get that from?”

Q: Do you split kitchen time at home?
I have to kick him out. [Laughs] We butt heads a lot in the kitchen. He’s still a kid and doesn’t want to listen.

Q: What’s your favorite dish Alexander has cooked for you?
My favorite thing he’s cooked for me so far would be his chicken katsu. And I’m still partial to his macaroons.

Q: What do you hope for Alexander going forward?
I want to see him own a restaurant. I think that would be fantastic if he still has that passion, which I think he will—I don’t see it dissipating. I want him to get the experience first, learn all the ins and outs of how a restaurant really works. One thing we’ve been hearing a lot: You could be the best chef in the world, but if you don’t know the business, you don’t have a restaurant.


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