I received a link recently to an article from The Oregonian, written by Casey Parks, about a five-year-old named Julian Kreusser who has his own cooking show on an Oregon public broadcasting network. As I read about "Chef" Julian, I became intrigued and decided to watch a few of his shows.
Normally, I wouldn’t care about some cute kid making cooking videos with his parents, which there are probably hundreds on YouTube, but why this kid's show has me so interested, and disturbed, is it's being packaged as an actual cooking show, with the kid as some sort of culinary savant. I have a feeling there's more here than meets the eye.
The driving forces behind "The Big Kitchen with Food" seem to be Julian's parents, and Portland Community Media, which airs the show starring the young, slightly confused chef. After watching the clip, I couldn't help but question some of their claims and quotes from the article. It all seemed a little "hoaxy" to me.
"He actually understands what he's doing. He's not just following orders," claims executive director Sylvia McDanie. She says the viewer's love him, and adds, "It has potential to be a national program." Has she seen the show?
"It's great that he gets to do what he wants to do," says his mom, Kristen McKee. "We want him to do what's in his heart, to follow his interests." Isn’t that what those beauty pageant moms always say?
The parents claim the recipes, as well as the theme song are all Julian's ideas. Even though his father admits he used some connections to help get the show on the air (thanks, I thought he may have put on a little suit, took a cab to the station, and pitched them the show on a milk crate), he insists Julian came up with the concept. Really? "We are just enablers," says his dad, Ben Kreusser. That's one word for it.
It may not come as a huge surprise that along with all this adult "guidance," Julian is also home-schooled, or as it's referred to in the article, "unschooled." Apparently this is some type of home schooling where the child decides what they want to learn. Julian is quoted saying, "So everything I see, I can learn about." Well, isn't that convenient. Must make scheduling the show's filming a breeze.
I've posted a video of Chef J below, making some "tomato sauce without tomato paste," and after watching it, all 13 agonizing minutes of it (the "cute" wears off after about 45 seconds), I would love to hear your thoughts. By the way, the viewer comments I read on Yumsugar, where this same video was also shown, weren't very kind.
There are several moments in the video when Julian doesn't even seen to remember what he's making (even though he "created" the recipe himself). He also struggles with the tools - instead of being cute, the sight of him trying to use the vegetable chopper was kind of sad. Then, the camera cuts away, and wha la! The veggies are cut and it's on to the next step. Thanks, Mommy.
Anyway, you be the judge. Maybe I'm being too suspicious. Maybe he isn’t being manipulated and exploited by parents that want the celebrity they believe will come with star chefdom. Maybe the fine folks at Portland Community Media don't have any ulterior motives. Maybe I should pick on someone my own size?