By Jane Ford-Stewart
Cooking for three judges on the national “MasterChef” show was nerve-racking enough for recent Muskego High School grad Jordan Kaminski, but last Friday he was cooking for more than 400 judges.
It was homecoming at Muskego High and Kaminski had been invited back to cook for 400 former classmates.
He chose to prepare a variation of the dish that was crucial in winning the young chef a spot on “MasterChef.” Earlier this year, Kaminski, second youngest on the show, appeared in five episodes of the popular competitive cooking show before being eliminated about a quarter of the way through the season. He also appeared in the season finale.
Chef Ramsay, the horror of professional chefs on “Hell’s Kitchen,” was easier on Kaminski and the other amateur chefs on “MasterChef” than he is on the pros.
But Kaminski knew that high school students would not make such distinctions and would be painfully honest if they didn’t like the dish he prepared. So he was apprehensive about how his soy-glazed chicken on Asian noodles would go over with the teens’ still-developing palates that prefer pizza to almost anything.
“I was a little nervous going in,” Kaminski said. “But then I saw how much people were enjoying it.”
“Then it was a blast,” he said.
Lots of people came up to say hello and to say how much they liked his dish.
Kaminski was mostly busy on the serving line, but afterward he got to mingle.
“That was a lot of fun,” the outgoing budding chef said. He met old friends, made new ones and was amazed at how many students watch the show and how many had actually seen him on it.
“There were fans of the show I didn’t even know,” he said. Others wanted advice on how to pursue their own dreams.
“I talked to kids who might want to pursue cooking or television after high school,” he said. He particularly treasures those conversations.
“If I can encourage just one kid to pursue any dream, it makes the entire experience worthwhile,” he said.
Taher Inc. which provides the school lunches, invited Kaminski to be guest chef because it wanted to do something new and different, said Julie Stier, assistant food service director at the Muskego-Norway School District.
“With homecoming and he’s an alum and people know he has been on the show,” inviting Kaminski was a natural, she said.
Kaminski, a broadcasting student at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha and part-time employee with a catering company, was ready for the challenge.
He met with Luke Norris, chef for Muskego-Norway, on the Monday before the big Friday. Kaminski’s original soy-glazed sea bass recipe to be made with chicken instead was for six people. It took Chef Luke’s magic to turn that into a recipe for more than 400, Kaminski said.
Friday started early, with Kaminski arriving in the kitchen about 7:30 a.m. He and Chef Luke and two others chopped and sliced, cooked and tasted. But things went well and they were able to keep up.
“We were never really in the weeds and that’s a testament to the food staff,” Kaminski said. “They’re all great cooks.”
Working in the school kitchen that one morning taught him something he didn’t know in four years of eating his school lunches in the cafeteria.
“I did not realize the amount of work to feed an entire high school,” he said. “I have an immense respect for all of them (the staff).”