Blake Schmidt ‘cooks’ up a promising future


Lisa Kelley-Schmidt

Schmidt was invited to the Darien Women’s Club banquet in 2022 as a scholarship winner and guest speaker.

Catherine Hewawissa, News Editor

Amid the organized clatter of the DGS Advanced Culinary kitchen, freshman Blake Schmidt puts the finishing touches on his made-from-scratch pasta. While new to the DGS kitchen, Schmidt is no stranger to the culinary world, in fact, he has been a chef since the age of three, becoming something of a culinary influencer.

In March of 2022, Food Network released season 8 of MasterChef JR, featuring DGS’s own Blake Schmidt as one of the 16 young competitors.

“I was not on [the show] for long, but the time I was on there, it was really magical. I saw the big sets that were only on TV and I got advice from some of the best chefs in the whole world. I took a lot in, and I have a lot of that still with me now,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt had the opportunity to meet celebrity chef Martha Stewart, who gave him a signed copy of her book “Cookie Perfection.”

Schimdt’s Food Network journey started in 2018, when The MasterChef JR auditions came to Chicago. Schmidt was tasked with a “test your knowledge” type of audition. He had to boil water, cook an egg in a creative way and cut celery. While he did not get selected for the show the first time around, a year later, he received a callback to join the next season.

“I kind of just found it because I had a love for cooking shows, I had been cooking since I was three years old and I got to the age where I was a similar age to the other kids on I saw on the shows, so I was like ‘oh, maybe that is something I could do,’” Schmidt said.

Lisa Kelley-Schmidt is Blake Schmidt’s mom and manager (who likes to refer to herself as his ‘mom’ager), she signed him up for cooking classes as a way to get him out of the house after his little brothers were born. By the age of 9, he was taking adult cooking classes.

“I went to cooking classes to get me out of the house for a little bit, and it kind of just sprouted from there. You know, I went from crushing up oreos to making steak,” Blake Schmidt said.

Blake did not win and being eliminated was tough. Yet, the whole experience: going to California for weeks, cooking in the MasterChef Kitchen, going behind the scenes and meeting Gordon Ramsay and Aaron Sanchez was a thrill. It was the entire package, meeting friends from around the country. This event has been a cornerstone in the making of Blake as a young chef,

— Lisa Kelley-Schmidt, Schmidt's 'Momager'

On his way out of the MasterChef kitchen, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay had this to say: “Blake, promise me you will keep cooking.” And while not for a TV audience, Schmidt continues to cook as a way to give back to his community.

Schmidt has been the hospitality host for Eisenhower JHS supporting the teachers and he ran a lemonade stand for his charity Camp Kessem (a free camp for kids whose parents are affected by cancer). Kessem asked him to be the key note speaker at the annual Make the Magic dinner in 2022.

At the Camp Kesem Lemonade Stand, Schmidt helped raise $1,000 in one day.

“I am proud of Blake and what he does for the community and proud of what he does at school. [I am] thankful he has been there for me when I need him,” Blake Schmidt’s friend, freshman Ethan Congalosi said.

Kelley-Schmidt runs an Instagram account that follows her son’s activity in the kitchen: @Blakethekidchef, the account has over 700 followers and features meals Schmidt cooks and bakes as well as photos of Schmidt at different culinary events.

“Blake is regularly cooking for various events. Birthday parties, bake sales, school, cooking contests, fundraisers, holidays and just dinners at home. Blake makes me proud of all he does in the kitchen and out all the time. We are lucky to have this kid in our family,” Kelley-Schmidt said.