By Tony Lovitt
Known as the "Superman of the Sauté Pan" and the reigning champion chef of a nationally televised cooking show, Nathan Odom has earned the accolades of the notoriously tough, internationally renowned chef/restaurateur, Gordon Ramsay.
And he's only 13 years old.
In late-February, Odom, who attends Roosevelt Middle School in North Park, won Season Three of Fox-TV's MasterChef Junior by eliminating 18 other young chefs from throughout the United States. He earned $100,000 and a trophy for his efforts.
"Definitely a lot more people approach me in my school than they used to," he says. "I was always kind of introverted and I have had a couple of people ask me for money... jokingly."
Odom says he intends to allocate half of his prize winnings towards college and the other half to treating himself to new art equipment (painting is his hobby) and cooking supplies. He also says he'll donate some to charity.
In the MasterChef Junior finale, Odom dazzled the judges, defeating New Jersey's Andrew Zappley with a spectacular three-course meal featuring a main course of herb-crusted lamb chop with fava beans and white asparagus puree.
"When I actually got on the show, it definitely raised my self confidence a lot because I never really thought that I would be able to do something so amazing," he says. "And then actually going on to win the whole thing was surreal for me."
Odom attributes his interest in cooking to his having begun baking with his mother at age 3, and to chef Ricardo Heredia, who taught a cooking class at North Park's McKinley Elementary School.
"[From Heredia], I learned about flavors, and the culture and history of food, and other ways to cook it and stuff like that," he says. "I think that's when I started really becoming serious about [cooking]."
Serious about following a culinary career path, ideally as a pastry chef, Odom says he looks forward to making his favorite dessert, macarons.
"I really don't want to work in the high-stress environment of a restaurant and I really love pastries a lot more than I like cooking savory food," he says. Like his pastry creations, the young chef 's future sure looks sweet.