BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Queens junior chef Jose Gonzalo Perea Rivera, 12, will face off against 40 other youngsters for the “MasterChef Junior” title, trophy and $100,000 grand prize this week on Fox.
Gonzalo, who was born in Ecuador, moved to Peru at 6 months of age and then to Queens at age 7. He began cooking at age 5 after the breakup between his mother and biological father.
His Peruvian background helped to develop Gonzalo’s passion for foods from that country, specifically its spices.
“My specialty is fish,” Gonzalo said. “My mom and grandmother helped me understand how fish should be cooked and what goes great with it. For that reason, I’m very thankful to have them in my life.”
Gonzalo’s favorite Peruvian dish is ceviche, which is a seafood dish popular in South and Central America, and is made from fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices such as lemon or lime.
“I find the fact that fish can be cooked with acid is extremely cool,” Gonzalo said. Although his love for Peruvian food is strong, his desire to learn to cook new dishes and different ways of cooking those dishes is even greater, making Gonzalo’s participation in
“MasterChef Junior” a dream come true.
However, given that in 2014 Gonzalo signed up for “MasterChef Junior” season two and didn’t make it far, the phone call informing him that he had made it to the top 40 was a surprise.
“You can just imagine what that felt like,” Gonzalo said. “Picking up the phone and hearing that you made it to the top 40. My heart was beating so fast; I was wondering if it was real.”
Gonzalo said when he received the call, his older sister and three younger sisters were jumping up and down with excitement and were cheering him on.
“When Gonzalo got that call I was completely excited and thrilled; it was the proudest moment of my life,” said Joshua Ingram, Gonzalo’s dad. “I’m so proud of Gonzalo. The whole family is proud of Gonzalo. I’m just so thrilled that he was able to overcome not making it this far for season two. He saw that it didn’t work but got back on the horse and watched how it worked out. He learned that if he keeps trying, in the end he’ll be successful.”
Although Gonzalo is competing for the big prize, his culinary future is even brighter. Gonzalo hopes to open a food truck called “Food Around The World” that will serve international cuisine to those who have relocated to America, but miss their home foods.
Currently attending Junior High School 194/William Carr School in Whitestone, Gonzalo is already looking into the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.
As a contestant on “MasterChef Junior,” where he’s judged by renowned pastry chef Christina Tosi and awardwinning chef Gordon Ramsay, Gonzalo’s culinary education has already begun.
“The judges are extremely nice and help you along the way,” Gonzalo said. “When you stumble, they help you get back up. When you make a mistake, they show you how to do better.”
Not only is he able to receive professional criticism from the judges, but Gonzalo has begun networking at a young age by meeting talented young aspiring chefs.
“I’ve made so many friends along the way,” Gonzalo said. “These are people that share my same dreams that have things in common with me. Meeting them and working with them was so much fun.”
To see Gonzalo compete on season 5 of “MasterChef Junior” for the title and grand prize, watch the premiere on Thursday at 8 p.m. on Fox.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or email@example.com