Matthew Grunwald wasn't completely surprised when he got the call telling him he would be a contestant on season 11 of Food Network Star.
"I was really expecting it," the Scottsdale resident says. "I'm the kind of person where when I do something, I expect good results."
Grunwald says with his experience, training, and résumé, it seemed the right time for the opportunity, and being on a Food Network show has been a goal since he was a kid Grunwald says he's been preparing for this his entire life — though at 22 years old, his lifetime of preparation might not be as long as you'd think.
The young chef says he remembers waking up early on a Saturday morning when he was about 7 years old and having a deep desire to create something in the kitchen. He made a "secret sauce" out of mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard, and soon after that, he graduated to using heat with the supervision of his mom. The result was a dish of warm pickles and mayonnaise.
Obviously, Grunwald's skills and palate have advanced since then.
After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, he won the People's Choice award during the 2013 Almost Famous Chef competition and landed his current job at elements at Sanctuary Resort, cooking under chef Beau Macmillan.
Despite his age making him the youngest competitor on the show, Grunwald is confident he has the experience to go head-to-head with other contestants. He says he plans to use the "generational gap" between him and the other finalists as a force to compel him forward throughout the competition.
"There's a certain perception I'm sure that people have when they see someone my age, but I think that my age and having been tapped for this 11th season really says something about the market and people that watch the Food Network," Grunwald says. "They're wanting to see what I have to offer."
During Food Network Star, Grunwald says, he aims to make "the dinner plate a destination for families" and to introduce the world to great Southwestern food, which he adds is one of his favorite things to make on his days off.
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Even if Food Network Star doesn't work out the way he hopes it will, Grunwald says he plans to stay in the industry and pursue a career as a television producer. But food will always be his number one passion.
"I live, eat, and breathe food everyday," he says.
Watch Grunwald during the premiere of season 11 of Food Network Star when it airs this weekend at 9 p.m. on Sunday, June 7.