Saturday, January 24, 2009

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be a Celebrity Chef! Right, Mommy?

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?


Connie T. said...

I agree with you. I could only watch to the chopping of the onion. That was a chore. It was like watching a home video. How could he get on TV?

Chef John said...

I guess they thought he would get the station some pub, which he has.

Nikki said...

Chef John,

I also found it hard to watch and hard to look away so I watched the whole thing. I believe the stove was never on, if it was it would have been too hot for him to put his hand their. He was being coached (quietly) from behind the camera. He's eating of the vegetables from the pot made my tummy turn. On the other hand this family is raising a non picky eater.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to have kids of my own to whore out for personal gain.

Anonymous said...

Pretty disturbing. I hope that the "boiling" water was at most tepid - I'd hate to see a child try to copy this and get scalded.

Greg said...

Beauty Pageant parents is a perfect analogy.

Greg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I don't have any bad feelings about the boy as he was just being himself and being a kid. However this show made me detest his parents already even though I've never met them. They are just a bunch of opportunistic people and thank goodness they aren't in politics.

Anonymous said...

Wow, just wow. x.x Did anyone else thought that a minute of watching him lick a can to be disturbing?

As you said, "Beauty pageant parents" sounds absolutely right.

Anonymous said...

Chef John,
Well that was painful, but like watching a car on fire at an accident scene--it was hard to turn away too. Homeschooling or 'no-schooling' aside, I can see this kid has had no structure other then being an entertainment bragging point for the parents, who should have been required to get a license to breed.

Obviously the parents are still in shock and awe that this little creation of theirs can walk and talk like a little person and is soooo speecial for being able to do so. 5 year olds are like hummingbirds, should be playing and doing 5year old stuff, not being exploited by parents who need an ego stroke for their own inadequate limitations which is clearly what this is all about.

The chopper scene was hilarious as was mom struggling as much with the garlic press. I think they should have given him a cleaver to play with which would be more fascinating. Pity they did not teach their little germ factory in the apron about basic hygenic practices in the kitchen. The TV station must have had to cancel their dog-walking show for this gem. Food Network and similar TV shows is seriously ruining the cooking craft in so many ways by over commercialization.

Don't mean to sound so unkind, but this vid bugs me in so many ways I cannot begin to count.

Anonymous said...

That was horrible. I would have been more entertained if you posted a real length time video of all 18 hours of the no knead bread rising. :)

R said...

They're not fooling anyone with this.
I love it when the mom says "time to go to the stove" and he replies, "To do what?"
"Cook it"

Anonymous said...

Oh my!!! Talk about painful to watch. I've had a lot more fun cleaning my oven.

Please say the stove isn't on--but then, how is it cooking?

This is not even a good home movie!!

Please find that child someone his age to play with.

I'm sure he made up the recipe even though he couldn't remember what the ingredients were.

Oh, yeah, the licking thing was not amusing.


But the kid is cute.

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for the kid. HIs parents are 'trying very hard' to sell him as precocious, but the results are just obnoxious.

I wonder what the ratings are for this show, and this station? I know Portland isn't a big media market, and with this kind of stuff on, even at a Public Broadcasting station, is there any wonder why?

Poor, Oregonians. The damp weather there must have something to do with it. It's a case of too little sunshine, and way too much time indoors!

Unknown said...

All I want to say is: it's just SAD!!!!!!!!!!!

Unknown said...

I only made it to where he put the green pepper into the chopper, so I missed the germ factory stuff others have commented about. It seems to me the kid is doing what kids do: Mimicking adult behavior.

I read that his Dad used connections to show the boy at the TV station, I guess because he thought it was cute, which it could have been, if the boy could actually cook, instead of pretending to.

My biggest problem is with the TV station airing that. Big whopping FAIL! If the station had a different kid that could actually cook, and using proper infection control for the kitchen, it might have worked for me.

Anonymous said...

jeez, that wasn't a good way to start off my day haha... "sucks his teeth, mom what are we making again?" btw whats tvp?

Anonymous said...

THIS is on TV?! I'd rather watch paint dry while listening to a CD of cats in heat.

Anonymous said...

Oh God, that was just a mere pain to watch. The kid barely knew what to do, and seemed generally confused throughout the whole thing. I feel bad for him.

Helge said...

I found this kid on BoingBoing a week ago or so, he got a smashing review. Look it up! Makes you wonder if the people over there really watches all the things they recommend to us.

So I thoght this could be a fun thing to show to my nine year old daughter and could be some kind of inspiration for her or something like that. So we watched half of an episode, my daughter left thirty seconds in claiming it to be stupid. I watched some more hoping for it to be good, didn't happen. I found the whole thing to be somewhat disturbing.

Chef John said...

tvp = texturized vegetable protein

Anonymous said...

It is pretty brutal to watch, but, at least the kid is probably enjoying himself. A lot of parents consider there kids more like little workers than kids (trust me, I know) I don't really think he knows what's going on, but he seems to be having a good old time. I couldn't imagine people watching this on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

Well, Julian is certainly a cute kid, and this is a great video--for his GRANDPARENTS to watch. However I don't see anybody else being interested enough to watch the whole thing, let alone a series! ( I did watch, just to be fair, but sadly, it didn't improve )
That apron strap hanging over the burner had me a bit worried until I read from one commentor that the stove was probably not on, whe-hooh!
The REAL danger of this video is that some other parents might follow suit, YIKES!
Luisa Vacaville

Anonymous said...

The reason why kids shouldn't be in cooking shows. they are touchy and eat anything. I've been taking cooking classes at high school and probably the most important thing they teach you is sanitation. I can't count the numbers of time my teacher has talked about sanitation. But this kid just broke like almost all the rules. I hope he washes his hands too. I have to learn about sanitation and about food and i don't seem to have a show.

I think this show is just meant to be cute. He is just like my little cousin. He is just acting cute to get attention. all kids do that. That is why he wants his mom out of the camera.

I can't believe i got that far into the show, but it is because its a sunday and i don't have anything better to do hahaah

That was one of the hardest things to watch

Anonymous said...

If this is supposed to be a kid's show, he should have had all the ingredients prepared by an adult and him mentioning so. When he was handling the garlic press I was squirming that he might knock a tooth out.
"Now we're going to pour the onions and peppers and stuff in..... right?"
Obviously this is not his recipe.
The kid can't even stir!

Hey Chef, I love your videos, but you just made this kid's view count explode. I'm afraid the parents will think the views are a good thing.

Grams Pam said...

This kid has 3 other videos, all of which are BAKING, which we all know requires much more precision, so I don't believe for one minute he is making up his own recipes; improvising.. yes, like adding citrus to gingerbread batter.

The newspaper article said the kid, at age 3, made scrambled eggs while his parents were sleeping! What the heck!? Like that's something to be proud of? I'd have given him a spanking and a lesson on the dangers of fire.

The article also says his Dad works at the TV station, which I think is the ONLY reason the child was given his own show. It goes on to say Dad does the editing for the kids show ... (1) there needs to be a LOT more editing and (2) the spaghetti sauce recipe was "without tomato paste" and the kid clearly put in 2 cans of tomato sauce, but at the end the ingredient list includes tomato paste. (I hope Dad edits at his job better than he did here)

This kid has been on NPR and AOL as well. I personally think it's only YouTube-worthy.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god to let that kid near a stove while standing on a chair with a loose fitting apron (I really don't think the stove was on with him leaning all over it) what were they thinking. And teaching him it is okay to double, double dip Ugg! Come on, this is cute to two people, his mom and dad.. What did they put in that can he kept putting his fingers in and licking, chocolate.

Anonymous said...

omg really texturized vegetable protein, that sounds horrible. I would rather put a cup of msg then that stuff, at least it'll give it some flavor

Angie ^i^ said...

Oh Chef John, that was painful to watch. They should have just set him down with a spoon and a can of tomato sauce, and let the youngun go to town! Him liking what was in the can was the only REAL part of the whole "show".. which I watched every excruciating second of.

I think Momma needs to stop unschooling that obviously bright young man and get him a formal SCHOOLING! She's doing nothing but exploiting him in hopes of capitalizing on his "potential fame". How SAD!

Anonymous said...

After a year of faithfully following your posts and recipes, I am going to break my silence.

Hmmmmm....I am a mother of a very intelligent 4 year old and I am going to be they spent at least one entire day on coaching and creating this. Maybe he is interested in cooking (my kids love helping me out). But after a few stirs and an ample mess, they are happy to run out in the backyard and either throw around dirt or kick a ball. They most definatly are not in it for the long haul!

Didn't even watch the onion. Boring and quite sad when parents live THROUGH their children.

Charlemange said...

This was a waste of bandwidth and a waste of TV airtime.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I also found it cute at the beginning.. but soon found myself "fast forwarding" until the end.

However.. funny that there seem to be people thinking this was "real"... and that this is really airing on TV??

Whatever... poor kid.


Lamez0rs said...

Chef John,
I don't think you were inaccurate at all about your assessment of this unfortunate boy. I can't help but remember an episode of 'Maury Povich'
where some parents were talking about their son being in cheer leading competitions. He was made fun of at school all the time and picked on and whatnot. He was visibly upset on the show, and the parents insisted it was his choice and that if he didn't want to do it, he didn't have to. I also saw something else on I think it was 'Britain's got talent' where it was much the opposite. A young man had learned to twirl a baton from his grandmother and was really quite impressive with it, but he talked about how unsupportive his parents were and how he had been picked on all through middle school and high school. I think the making fun of thing had a lot to do with the unitard that his grandmother made for him to wear.
Anyway thanks for posting your opinion about this travesty.

Anonymous said...

I watched a clip of his before, I think on Stumble Upon, and it was painful to say the least. His parents are obviously control freaks, hopefully the kid will grow up independently eventually and still have a love for cooking.

Minichef said...

Jjajajaj the boy jist don't know what is he doing. jaja
but i'm 12 yearsold, and i do exelent lasagna, pizza, tomato sauce, BREAD, an d a lot things, i start in the age of 8 years old, ,
Whenever I cook the food it(she) works out furthermore(moreover) rich for me that the past, like that time that technologies(skills) that not to do and thousand things more, but anyhow I cannot prove(try) anything until it publishes videoes, in one week will be ready list one.

Anonymous said...

Chef John:
I have not watched the video yet, and probably won't. But when I started reading your posting, I was initially dismayed that my favourite Chef was plugging some child phenom. You cannot imagine my delight as I read your full posting. What nerve! Having the *audacity* to criticize the showboating of a cute kid -- isn't that sacreligous in American society? Bravo Chef John and posters for calling it like you see it!

Susannah said...

y'all are just all damn jealous! He is obviously a little precocious genius and y'all are just jealous that YOU didn't think of putting onions and peppers in spaghetti sauce. I'm ashamed of all a y'all!

Hao said...

I'm not entirely sure what the purpose of this show is for: after the first 30 seconds or so of "cuteness", any adult actually wanting to learn from the recipe is going to be bored to tears. Same for kids who might actually be interested in cooking.

Get two or three 10 year olds who can actually present information to their audience to do a cooking show, and I think it could actually be quite good. As another commentor mentioned, this is really only youtube-quality.

Angie ^i^ said...

LMAO Suzy (Susannah) ~ Leave it to you to make a comment like that!! hahaha

Vilamoura Villa said...

I think I deserve a freed DVD from you Chef John! I watched the video till the end, and quite honestly I want some compensation for the dreadful time I've wasted... GOD that was boring!

And yes, Chef John, next time pick on someone your own size!

Anonymous said...

Let's hope his parents enroll him in your Small School in Sonoma!!! His parents need some much needed 'schooling' in parenthood!!
Oh and thanks Chef John for wasting 13 minutes of my time..LOL.. Next Paint Drying?? Truth be known if you post it.. I will watch and learn something from it...wink wink

Anonymous said...

All looks very suspect to me. The child certainly doesn't exhibit behavior that indicates ownership of the recipe. Mum does though. Clever Mum.

Anonymous said...

This was too hilarious--but not it a GOOD way--what on earth are the parents thinking???

Anonymous said...

he's only 5 cheft john! :o although i agree with you

Anonymous said...

Hopefully he doesn't grow up to be a serial killer. I'm still mad at my parents for making me pose for a newspaper ad for their restaurant when I was 7.

Anonymous said...

Goes to show you there's more to making a food show than a personality and ingredients.

I really appreciate your editing and voiceover, Ch. J.-- all the essentials, none of the umming and dreadful pauses that improvised television produces, which I'm still working on on my vblog.

Chef John said...

umm, thanks.

Susannah said...


Unknown said...

chef julian: when child exploitation fails miserably

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I agree with most people, this was painful to watch. Especially when he was using the garlic press with a knife right there on the cutting board, one unbalanced struggle with the press could send his hands flying onto the knife.

You can tell this is not what the kid wants to do, as he looks and sounds like his attention span is somewhere else during the introduction.

Also, throughout the video, you can see him doing something random, look at the camera, goes blank (in my opinion, concentrating on ques from his mother) then snaps back to the task at hand.

This reminds me of a section called "Gifted Children" from a book that I read, "Stuff White People Like." Basically, the book suggests that all parents think their child is "gifted," even if they do poor in academics, they are magically "gifted." If a kid draws (doesn't have to be good at it), he is gifted. If a kid can sing (again, not well), he is gifted. If he can tie his shoes at 3, he is gifted. If he can talk to a camera while ATTEMPTING to cook, he is gifted. Call me harsh, but this is not gifted, this is "special," in the negative term. I am disappointed in his parents.

Oh yeah, also, I am from Portland, Oregon and yes, there are a lot of tree huggers and modern hippies who think their children are too "gifted" for public or private school. And thus, home-schooling has become a trend. I think this kid will have some sort of social problem, as with most special kids.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely ghastly! I have no use for 'adorable' little kids trying to play adult.
I have even less use for parents who exploit their children.

Unhappy with this in NC

Christine said...

This was soooo cute. Oh my gosh. I would love my kid to be that smart and charitable :)

Anonymous said...

Disgusting!!! And if "mom" doesn't know enough to comb her hair before her "cameo appearance?" Well, then...

Unknown said...

Whats in the package? pvp, pvt?

I didn't understand what they were saying, and I can't figure it out. What soaks for 5 minutes in hot water? Some sort of Polenta? What does that have to do with red gravy?

Driving me crazy.

Anonymous said...

Are there any written recipes that
accompany the food recipe videos?

Call me stupid, but are any of the
recipes written?


Chef John said...

no, but there will be transcripts soon.

Bill said...

Chef John, thanks for your tireless work and… um, for the video. My 11-year-old watched this over my shoulder for about 30 seconds before saying, “I can’t take this. I’m leaving.”

If I may ask, please don’t equate this situation with all home schooling. My idea of exploiting my child is telling him to get me a Coke and take out the trash, a simple return on 8 hours of playtime a day and 30 pounds of logo blocks. We home school to pace his learning and social development at our choosing, not because we think he’s gifted. Is he ahead of his grade level? Yeah, some, and he should be. He’s got a structured 1:1 teacher/pupil ratio. All children benefit from smaller classrooms. Teachers are our unsung heroes.

Julian is obviously smart and cute, I think, but not 13:02 minutes of cute. A little boy precariously leaning over a stove? Hello? Social Services? Stirring the tomato sauce with slurppy fingers? My son has “wash your hands” written backwards on his forehead with an indelible marker so he can read it in the bathroom mirror. This video was like watching a two-hour slide show of someone’s vacation. Oh look! There’s Uncle Clyde leaning against another tree.

Still, children can build great memories in the kitchen. That’s how I picked up a love of cooking. Two nights ago, my son and I made Chicken Mole. It was brown. It was tasty. It was good.

Anonymous said...

I feel like a lot of unreasonable judgments are based on very little evidence in this post

There are a lot of things you say or insinuate that you actually do not know to be true:

- Julian is being home-schooled simply because is it convenient for filming the show.

- Julian is not interested in cooking and only does it because his parents make him (hence the beauty pageant analogy)

- The video is a hoax because the viewer is supposed to think that Julian makes the pasta sauce all on his own (which can't be true, if his mom makes a cameo appearance to help him. And I don't think you're expected to believe "wha la" veggies where cut up by Julian)

Also, about whether Julian creates the recipes or not, it would be better to use some direct quotes from the parents and not to lump his parents' statements with those of the executive director.

It may be that what his parents' meant was something like that Julian actually said "I want to make a cooking video for pasta sauce, Mommy" but his parents had to come up with the details of the recipe and guide him during the video taping.

Anyways, I'm not saying one way or another whether I think Julian's parents' intentions are good or bad. I don't know. I just think saying parents are exploiting their child is a pretty heavy accusation, and I wouldn't do it unless I was sure.

But one thing for sure is that that kid should not have been sticking his fingers in the cans - he could have gotten cut.