By Janee Law
Even as a 3-year-old, William Connor was always curious about food.
He enjoyed mixing foods to create different, sometimes strange, combinations, such as a concoction of French fries, pancakes and strawberries that he once assembled at a Denny's, recalled Amy Connor, his mother. That intrigue continued and, by age 7, William started to cook, first with some help.
By the time he turned 10, William started cooking in the kitchen solo. The first time he did, it was to craft a meal for his parents on what he decided would be a date night for them, Amy said.
“He threw us out of the kitchen and he set the dining room table with our fine china and crystal, and he decided he was going to make us a meal,” she said. William made his parents stuffed mushrooms and coconut chicken, and topped it off with chocolate mousse for dessert.
Amy quickly realized that her son’s curious tendencies as a child had come together in the form of cooking talent.
William, now 13, of Northport, has taken that talent and used it to earn a spot on national television. He’s set to compete in an episode of Food Network’s “Chopped Junior” that’s set to air on Oct. 25.
William, who traveled to Manhattan in April for the filming of the episode, said the experience was great and “really helped me become the chef I am now.”
In the upcoming episode, which is titled “Snapper Snafus,” William will battle against three other competitors before a panel of judges featuring chef Scott Conant, NASCAR driver Danica Patrick and chef Jamika Pessoa.
The four competitors will try to impress the judges in the first round, which will see them prepare duck and wild-flavored cupcakes, according to the episode description.
William was nervous throughout the experience, but he said he coaxed himself through it by telling himself, “I can do this.”
To get to that point, William sent in an application in February, and then entered a process of interviews, videos and auditions, which extended into March.
When the Connor family got the good news, that William made the cut, it was very exciting, Amy Connor said. “I think it was a really great thing for him.”
William’s favorite dish to cook is shrimp and curry cream sauce with peas and fettuccine. He said loves cooking because it allows him to “be creative with the ingredients,” putting his own spin on recipes to make them unique.
The eighth-grader at Northport Middle School is also involved in the school’s Video Game Club and its Cooking Club, which he said he founded as a sixth grader.
William said he dreams of attending The Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York and then becoming a professional chef.
“I really want to prove that kids can cook mature, gourmet food,” he said. “If they work hard enough, they can cook just as well as adults.”
William’s episode of “Chopped Junior” is slated to air on the Food Network at 8 p.m. EST on Oct. 25. Check local listings for channel information.