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Naperville eighth-grader Henry Weiser was prepared to answer the question: why did he try out for Top Chef Jr.

“I just thought, why not? I got to skip school that day. I wasn’t really doing anything with my life, I mean, I know I’m only 13, but still. And I thought, why not go on this show, what can I lose? I just want to try it,” Wieser said.

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Wieser and sixth-grader Fernando Valdes Nicholson of Elmhurst are two of 12 contestants on “Top Chef Jr.,” – its premiere slated for 7 p.m. this Friday on Universal Kids (previously the Sprout network).


Kids between the ages of 11 and 14 compete in a series of challenges to win the $50,000 prize. “Dancing with the Stars” contestant Vanessa Lachey is the host and Australian chef Curtis Stone is the head judge.

Wieser said he’s been cooking close to three years now but has yet to have a signature dish yet. His dream? To own a high-end French restaurant that earns three Michelin stars. If he wins the competition, he would love to spend his winnings on a home kitchen remodel and cooking supplies – including a food processor.

“I want (viewers) to know that I’m not there for the money, and I’m not really there to be on TV, I’m there to be the best I can be in a cooking competition,” he said.

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Nicholson’s journey to becoming a more accomplished cook started close to a year ago when he burned a quesadilla. But if you ask him now, his quesadillas are “cooked to perfection” and the 12-year-old hopes to be a cook or a scientist. He plans to spend his potential winnings on college, a gaming computer and some expensive birthday gifts for his family.

“I’m very excited to see how (the show) came out, but I’m also kind of nervous for it and I also don’t like how my voice sounds,” said Nicholson, adding that he may consider plugging his ears when he’s shown on TV. “That is a possibility.”

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