He’s got a black belt in Taekwondo, should have one in cooking, and Maple Ridge teenager Hudson Campbell put his skills to the test on the Food Network with a chance to win $10,000.
The TV show Chopped Canada will see Campbell, a Grade 10 culinary student at Thomas Haney secondary, compete against three other foodies aged 13-17.
Chopped Canada typically pits adults against each other. They are challenged to turn a basket full of mystery ingredients into a three-course meal, racing against a clock in front of a panel of expert judges.
Course by course, the judges decide which teen chef Chopped Canada host Brad Smith will ‘chop’ from the competition until only one remains and is crowned champion.
Campbell went through a long selection process that included an online application, phone interview, in-person interview and, finally, a display of his cooking prowess.
“He’s quite a charismatic guy, and I bet that’s why they chose him,” said Thomas Haney secondary chef Brian Smith. “And he’s got a passion for cooking, and that will come across in the show.”
Campbell has been inspired by a family that loves home cooking. He lived with his Croatian-born grandmother Mila Mustapic for two years, and she taught him old-world cooking in the eastern European style – everything from sausages made from scratch to stuffed peppers.
His mother Ivana has a passion for classic food, creating pasta and sauces, and his father Fred contributes comfort foods.
Hudson Campbell was just a toddler when he started helping in the kitchen. Even his after-school job involves food, as Meridian Farm Market puts his knife skills to work preparing containers of fresh fruit.
Campbell applied for the Chopped Canada teen competition for two seasons before being accepted.
“I really like to cook, and I thought it would be a great experience,” he said.
“It was so stressful, and so challenging.”
He is no stranger to the rigours of competition. Campbell is a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, was Canadian champion in 2008 and 2009, and B.C. champ in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
So he wasn’t too worried about taking lumps in a cooking competition, and was fast on his feet in the Chopped contest.
Taekwondo helped him score some points in the Chopped kitchen.
“You read your opponent, and try to tell what they’re going to do,” he said.
He said the competitors were “really nice, and all amazing cooks.”
He gave credit to chef Smith for helping him to prepare, giving him mock Chopped challenges before he was performing before the cameras, using ingredients like chicken, peppers and eggplants.
Being creative is an asset, but going through the exercise helped Campbell prepare.
He isn’t headed for culinary school after graduation. His plan is to study business, and his goal is to one day open his own restaurant. He isn’t tipping his hand on what he plans to serve, but the style will be “elevated comfort foods.”
The Chopped filming was done in June, but he has a no-spoilers contract that precludes him revealing details like what he cooked or who won the $10,000 prize.
Saturday night at Thomas Haney secondary, his fellow students and friends will gather in the rotunda for a viewing party to see Campbell compete. The party starts at 5:30 p.m.