ASHLAND — Brooke Nathanson was 4 years old when she began stirring cake mix and rolling dough with her grandmother, Carol Weiss, in the kitchen.
Nine years later, the pair will bake up a storm on a reality cooking show premiering Thursday.
Brooke and Weiss are competing on a cooking reality show called “Top Chef Family Style” on Peacock, a video streaming service owned by NBCUniversal.
In the show, 13 young chefs from throughout the country will cook alongside an older family member, competing against other pairs in a series of challenges for a grand prize of $50,000.
The show runs for 14 weeks, which means Brooke and Weiss will appear in more than one episode — though they can’t reveal how many, according to Weiss.
The reality show is hosted by Grammy Award-winning singer Meghan Trainor with acclaimed chef Marcus Samuelsson serving as head judge. The first two episodes air Thursday, with a new episode airing each Thursday going forward.
Special guests include “Modern Family” star Jesse Tyler Ferguson and JoJo Siwa, with an array of “Top Chef” alum, including Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio, also stopping by to lend their expertise.
Along the way, the chef duos have a chance to win other prizes like tickets to WWE’s Wrestlemania or a trip to a Universal Orlando Resort’s theme park.
Peacock finds her @officialchefbrooke
A producer from Peacock reached out to Brooke via her Instagram (@officialchefbrooke), where she posts photos of dishes she makes like lamb chops, cloud bread, decadent cakes and her own pasta. The streaming service found the lifelong Ashland resident from a TikTok she made cooking under the tag #kidchef, she said.
At first she thought it was fake, then she looked more into it to confirm it wasn’t.
“Then I was freaking out,” said Brooke, an eighth-grader at Ashland Middle School who also plays field hockey, video games and listening to her favorite band, Kiss — who she’s seen in concert.
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“It was such an honor,” said Weiss, who wasn’t expecting to make it past each step before finally being flown to Burbank, California, to film the show in May.
Weiss has been doing family cooking for decades, long before she was married. She’s a retired travel consultant who has experience in all types of cuisine, and was known for her red-rimmed glasses on-set.
“They’re very grandma-funky,” she said.
It was also surreal being on-set and meeting the hosts, they said.
“Marcus Samuelsson was so informative and helpful — he was terrific,” said Weiss.
“Meghan was great, too — everyone was really nice,” said Brooke.
As in their home kitchen, the pair worked well together on the show’s massive kitchen set with cameras buzzing about and capturing every chop and stir, said Weiss.
“As a whole, it was much harder than I originally expected, and the degree of professionalism was crazy over-the-top,” she said. “We both learned so much — it was insane.”
Brooke keeps in contact with some contestants from the show, and on Friday a few will visit for her bat mitzvah.
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Growing up watching her grandmother making things in the kitchen, Brooke began helping her at about age 4, said Weiss, who taught her most of her culinary knowledge. She’s taught others how to make certain dishes before, like lemon pistachio biscotti, something no one could seem to get just right.
But Brooke got it instantly, she said.
“I could tell she just had a real knack for it,” said Weiss, who has traveled the globe, from Italy to Spain, Paris and Africa, where she went on a safari with Brooke.
“That was really fun — definitely best trip I’ve ever been on,” said Brooke, who was then 11 and remembers the crocodile-shaped breads baked there.
The pair have also traveled to Israel together and learned to make hummus. After returning home from each trip, they make other dishes from that cuisine.
Weiss said her granddaughter is one of the best chefs she knows, even describing her as a better cook than herself.
“I think she has the natural instinct, the natural feel, I think she’s very serious about cooking and she really loves it,” said Weiss.
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During the pandemic, Brooke launched her own cake business called B Sweet By Brooke, and has received requests from prospective customers after first making treats for friends and family.
Brooke has also taken online cooking classes at Sur La Table, Dana’s Bakery and over Zoom with Martha Stewart to learn a carrot cake recipe.
She loves all types of cuisines, especially Asian, with her favorite dish being scallion pancakes.
“I’d eat them every day — they’re my favorite thing ever,” she said.
While she has her own cake business, Brooke said she also loves cooking. Some of her favorite dishes feature proteins, like stuffed shrimp. She is especially proud of making a beef wellington, and makes Thanksgiving dinner with her grandmother every year.
If the duo wins the $50,000, Weiss said she’d like to put the money toward Brooke’s college tuition. Brooke said she’d like to take a trip somewhere — like Italy — and try the food there, and save the rest for school.
Her ultimate goal is to attend culinary school and eventually become a chef.
“I just want to keep cooking and see what happens,” she said.
Lauren Young writes about business and pop culture. Reach her at 774-804-1499 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @laurenwhy__.