Top Chef – Senior Conner Erickson plans to study the culinary arts

HENRY ZHU / PHOTO

HENRY ZHU / PHOTO

15min

 

What inspires you to cook?

Mainly it’s my mother who inspired me to cook because every day of the week, she’d try to give our family of five a hot meal to eat for dinner and also for lunch on the weekends. Just all the effort she puts into it got me really wanting to cook.

Is your mother a professional cook?

No, she just loves to cook because her mother had a family of eight, and that’s where she found her love of cooking as well.

What kind of dishes do you cook?

Honestly, I love to do it all. I just love learning about new cuisines. But my main favorite, I would say, is just classic American food, such as lobster and crab, but I like to cook anything. I don’t have a main, favorite dish.

Is there a dish you cook that your family and friends especially love?

Yeah, we have a mock bourbon chicken dish. We don’t actually use bourbon in it because I’m not of age yet, but I made it in one of our classes and then I took that home to my family and made it for them. We kind of adapted the recipe, and it’s kind of a staple for us now, so it’s one of our favorites.

What classes have you taken for cooking at CHS?

I have actually taken all of the classes available. Sophomore year, I took Introduction to Culinary, and I took Nutrition and Baking. Last year, I took Culinary Foundations and Meal Management, and this year, I’m currently in Foreign Foods, which is the last class available.

Where do you shop for your ingredients?

We buy most of our produce for things such as vegetables and fruits from just our local grocery store, O’Malia’s. Then we get a lot of our meat and seafood from Joe’s Butcher Shop, which is local. We try to buy local.

How often do you cook for your family?

I try to get into the kitchen almost every day and do little things for my mom to help her, such as prep. Or if she needs me to watch something, I’ll keep it from burning. I just try and just do little things for her every day. Then on the weekends, sometimes I just make myself a dish to eat.

What do you cook for yourself?

HENRY ZHU / PHOTO

Myself, it’s pretty much whatever I can find in the refrigerator because I’m too lazy to go to the store. I do a lot of egg dishes, such as quiche and omelets, and I eat that around the day because it’s simple, and it tastes good because you can put other ingredients in it as well.

Have you ever worked at a restaurant or competed in a cooking competition?
I have not worked anywhere, but last year, (two classmates) and I, we were chosen out of all the culinary students in the high school to represent Carmel High School at Taste of the Chamber. Basically all of the local restaurants and chefs go to this event, and you just show off your food. We were chosen to represent Carmel, so that was pretty cool.

What did you bring?

We had made Caramel Brownie Cheesecakes, which had a brownie bottom filled with caramel and cheesecake on top of that. We were one of the favorite desserts there, which was cool.

Were there professional judges?

There were no judges. You just put a slip in for your favorite, and in the dessert category, we were ranked in the top.

What is your most memorable cooking experience?

Honestly, I would say probably around this time of year around Thanksgiving when we normally have a lot of our family over. Two years ago, we did a whole family reunion during Thanksgiving, and there were about 35 of us total, and I helped cook all of that, so that was a lot of food.

What is the biggest challenge about cooking?

Some dishes have strict recipes, and when I cook, I like to not follow the recipe and do my own thing. For the recipes that can’t be adapted, it’s hard for me not to adapt them because as a chef, you’re always thinking outside of the box and how you can change it and make it better.

What restaurants do you eat at?

Honestly, we don’t go out to eat a lot for some reason, but when we do go out, it’s normally Carrabba’s or something easy like that. Nothing too high end like the Ritz Charles. It’s basically just the local restaurants and chain restaurants. We try to do all the cooking at our house.

What are your favorite shows?

My favorite show is “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” with Guy Fieri just because that’s basically what I want to do, go around the United States touring different restaurants. That’s one of my dreams in culinary just because (Fieri) literally gets to try everything that the United States has to offer. Other favorite chefs are Tyler Florence and Anne Burrell, and I would say all of their shows. I might not be paying attention to them, but (culinary shows) are always on in the background when I’m home, so I’m always hearing them no matter what.

Compare yourself to a celebrity chef.
I would just say Gordon Ramsay just because he’s also one of my favorites. He’s mean in the kitchen, which is probably what most people depict head chefs as, but he does it for the good of teaching others and helping them out, so I’d compare myself to him. I don’t yell like him in the kitchen, but I have that kind of passion for it.

What are your future plans?

I plan on going to a four-year culinary college. Right now, I’m looking at Johnson and Wales in Charlotte, NC. They offer a four-year degree, and you minor as well, so I’d probably minor in business. After that, hopefully, I can get a job as a sous chef or a head chef, and then my ultimate goal is to have my own restaurant.

What would you say to others who love to cook?

For anyone who loves to cook, just keep doing it because even if you don’t do it as a job, you can do it for the rest of your life.

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