LINCOLN PARK — When he was a young boy, Jack Lembeck passed on childrens stories before bed.
Instead, he opted for recipes from a Charlie Trotter cookbook.
The 12-year-old from Lincoln Park is now competing in season three of "MasterChef Junior," which premieres at 7 p.m. Tuesday night on Fox.
"It was really exciting. I wasn't too scared, but was a little," Jack said. "I tried my hardest to stay calm.
Jack, who was tasked with whipping up dishes for judges Gordon Ramsay, restaurateur Joe Bastianich and Chicago's Graham Elliot, said adrenaline took over while working under the clock.
Paul Biasco says Lembeck is gearing up for a career in the culinary industry:
Jack was joined on the show by Canaryville's 9-year-old Phillip "Philly" Vazzana.
Jack said his love of cooking dates back to around age 4 when his parents started taking him to restaurants in the neighborhood.
"I've always just been helping out around the kitchen and I would help my dad on the grill," he said.
Jack's mother, Natasha Motev, attended a party at Charlie Trotter's when Jack was younger and received a cookbook as a parting gift.
"I brought it home and it was so funny," she said. "He was so intrigued with the book. He was reading recipes as nighttime stories."
Now instead of learning from Trotter's book and recipes, Jack is learning from one of the chef's old proteges, Michael Taus.
Taus, who started his career 26 years ago working under Trotter, is a family friend of the Lembecks' and has taken Jack under his wing.
Taus regularly visits Jack's home, and the two take a trip to Whole Foods to buy ingredients and come back to create new dishes.
"It gave me a lot of confidence finding my ingredients and knowing what to do," Jack said.
"It's unbelievable," Motev said of her son's relationship with Taus.
This summer Jack joined Taus during a Trotter Project fundraiser at Buckingham Fountain, helping the chef create dishes for the Windy City Wine Festival.
As his cooking progressed, Jack began creating more complex dishes and took a liking to cooking different types of fish.
"I mostly like to experiment," he said. "I'm actually better at making sauces for the fish. I usually make some sort of reduction."
Some of Jack's favorite neighborhood restaurants include Sai Cafe, Ringo and Del Seoul.
Jack, who is in seventh grade, said he isn't set on a future in the kitchen.
"Not too sure yet. I'm only 12," he said.
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