It’s not very often you hear 17-year-olds discussing the merits of hummus, lentils and quinoa. For Bethesda resident Noah Museles, whose mother, Elise, is a nutritionist, it’s second nature. “The key is avoiding overly processed items and sticking to fresh, natural ingredients,” he says in describing his philosophy on food and healthful eating. “You know, real food.”
The Sidwell Friends School senior’s perspective and culinary experience helped him secure a spot in the first teen-competitors’ episode of Food Network’s “Chopped,” which originally aired Oct. 2 (and ran several times, the last of which was on Tuesday). Noah was one of four young people chosen from hundreds to vie for a $10,000 cash prize and the championship title. The episode was shot April 2 in New York.
Following the show’s standard format, the contestants were given minimal time to execute courses based on the ingredients in mystery baskets. They were judged by chef-restaurateurs Alex Guarnaschelli, Marcus Samuelsson and Chris Santos on creativity, presentation and taste. Some of the more challenging basket items included gummy bacon, movie-theater popcorn and cotton candy.
Throughout the episode, the judges appeared floored by the young competitors’ maturity, quick thinking and composure. They specifically commended Noah on his speed and inventive, dramatic presentation.
The cooking techniques and skills Noah learned at L’Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda starting at age 10 helped propel him through the appetizer round, in which he prepared Asian marinated salmon with lima bean puree and a green salad, and through the entree round, where he made spicy chicken cutlets with bacon Brussels sprouts salad. But he fell in the final, dessert round, pitting his deconstructed chocolate ice cream with popcorn brittle against the chocolate stuffed crepes with popcorn crumble and raspberry topping from Shania Thomas of the Food and Finance High School in New York. She is now studying pastry at the Culinary Institute of America.
Noah has been pleasantly surprised and even a bit overwhelmed by the positive feedback from the community. Being a teenage reality star has its perks, especially in the digital age. “I have received approximately 200 Facebook friend requests since the episode aired,” he said, “from first-time viewers to hard-core ‘Chopped’ fans and users whose ages range from 10 to 90.”
When he is not experimenting in the kitchen, Noah participates in competitive horseback riding and volunteers weekly at Georgetown University’s Lombardi Cancer Center. His next challenge is tackling college applications and passing along culinary wisdom to Daniel, his younger 15-year-old brother.
Robyn Alexander, a former instructor at L’Academie de Cuisine, could tell Noah was a superstar from the beginning. “He had an enthusiasm for food, and about learning, that was contagious and wonderful for me as a teacher,” she told All We Can Eat. “You could tell he was trying to put flavors and techniques together at a young age. Although his foundation came very early on, Noah has just taken it to a whole other level.”
McDonough is a Post news aide.