12-year-old Afnan Ahmad from Jonesboro, Georgia, is currently dominating in the top 10 of MasterChef Junior 2017 US Season 5, a popular American cooking competition television series that is airing on Fox.
An American boy of Bangladeshi origin, Afnan is proud of his heritage and often uses it to his advantage while cooking.
Since he was five years old, he has been cooking. Starting with pancakes and eggs, he soon moved on to reimagining recipes and giving them his own twist: adding or removing ingredients to bring depth, complexity and heightened flavour to his dishes. Now, he prefers to follow his own recipes.
When his fifth grade math and science teacher at Pate's Creek Elementary School, Stockbridge, gave him a flier with the show's audition information, Afnan was understandably enthused.
After six months of auditions, he finally beat out a pool of 5,000 students and made it to the famed MasterChef kitchen.
In his very first Mystery Box Challenge, which was to make a dish with rice as the base ingredient, Afnan steamrolled all competition with a well-crafted fusion dish he called “Asian Paella.”
A paella is a rice dish prepared with oil, spices and vegetables to be served with meat or fish. Afnan paired his shrimp paella with a beautifully cooked medium rare steak and sauteed vegetables.
Leaving the shell on the shrimp to add depth of flavour and pan-frying his seasonings prior to cooking his paella showed a mastery of technique that won over all three judges.
He especially wowed Gordon Ramsay, notorious for his Hell’s Kitchen rage, with his Asian twist to the traditionally Latin dish.
His dish was chosen as one of the top three by the judges and was later announced as the best dish in the challenge.
When questioned by the judges, Afnan said he draws inspiration from his mother, who loves to cook, and also from other cuisines.
Thus far, Afnan has won two individual challenges in rounds three and six, won a team challenge in round seven and has picked up three immunities and is still going strong.
Afnan's proud mother, Shamima, loves all of her son's creations.
The pre-teen culinary maestro in the making has also been featured on Good Day Atlanta, a news program on the Fox 5 Atlanta television channel.