Watch out, Bobby Flay. There’s a new chef on the chopping block, and he’s ready for a throwdown.
His name is Julian Kreusser, and while he’s new to the television-chef game, he’s already got the magic ability to make every woman who watches him wield his whisk want to grab him and hug him and not let go.
But Chef Julian’s charm has nothing to do with five o’clock shadow or a dimpled chin, and everything to do with his age.
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Decked out in his favorite earth-tone plaid apron, the star of the Portland public-access cable show “Big Kitchen with Food” showed TODAY’s Matt Lauer how to make sopitas — a breakfast dish that combines onions, eggs and shredded tortillas scrambled in Paula Deen’s favorite ingredient, butter.
As onions began sizzling in a saucepan, Lauer asked the small-fry culinary artist how long he’d been cooking.
“I don’t know,” Julian said. “Maybe like 2? I don’t really know.”
But he does remember how his fascination began — as a tot, when his parents carried him in a front carrier while they were cooking. “I think I learned kind of by them carrying me in a pouch when they were cooking, like for dinner. Maybe I would like come stir it or something.”
Julian’s parents, Kristen McKee and Ben Kreusser, are committed to educating their son and his younger sister at home. But they don’t call it home-schooling; instead, they call it “unschooling.” What that means is that instead of telling the kids what they have to learn, the kids tell the parents what they want to learn. So if they ask why grass is green, that becomes the day’s lesson.
“I follow whatever he’s interested in and do my best to support it,” said McKee, who had accompanied her precocious son to the TODAY kitchen.
And that’s pretty much how Julian’s cooking show was launched. “Well, you know, I was watching TV and I said, ‘Hey, I want to do that, too.’ So I went and did my own cooking show,” he told Lauer.
“That’s exactly how I got this job,” the TODAY host replied.
Of course, it helped that Julian’s father works for the local Portland public television station. He operates the camera and does the editing for Julian’s show, while McKee acts as the director. If the young chef gets stuck during a segment, Mom also steps in and lends a hand.
And like all great chefs, Julian is very much accustomed to being the king of his kitchen — as Lauer quickly discovered when he tried to contribute to Julian’s sopita recipe. Politely but firmly, the 5-year-old artiste let the host know he could manage by himself.
A puzzled scowl also appeared on Julian’s face when it came time came time to add the eggs to his dish. Looking at the four yolks floating in the bowl that had been prepared for him, he said, “I would use three, except somehow, somebody got in — some person just turned it into four.”
After considering the situation, he came to the only logical conclusion: “I think I’ll beat these up.”
Lauer, father of a 5-year-old himself, asked Julian about his favorite foods, adding, “My daughter likes macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes.”
His parents say they have no idea whether Julian will continue in his TV chef role or move on to something else. A lad of many interests, he has already written and illustrated his own book: “A Person Wants a Toy.” Not surprisingly, food is involved.
“He really wanted a cantaloupe for his birthday,” one chapter begins. “His father said, ‘I don’t have a cantaloupe … I do have a watermelon.’ Then he cut the watermelon. The boy thought it was very delicious when he tasted it.”
Of course, Julian wrote that a long time ago — when he was 4.