Cooking skills belie his years

Mason Partak, 9, picking up prizes for his creations
By: Leah Rosasco, Auburn Journal Correspondent
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A local boy who wants to be a chef when he grows up is getting an early start on his career. 

For the past two years Mason Partak, 9, of Auburn has been wowing judges and audiences at cooking demonstrations and recipe contests in Placer County. Mason got his first taste of success when his “Everything But The Kitchen Sink Pirate Booty Cupcake” took second place in the cupcake contest at the 2011 Gold Country Fair. 
“I filled it with all kinds of stuff. I just packed as much as I could onto the cup cake,” Mason said. “It was really fun and so good.”
At this year’s Gold Country Fair, Mason won two first-place prizes for his brownie and cupcake recipes, both of which included peanut butter and peanut butter cookies. Shortly after his first-place wins at the Gold Country Fair, Mason made his first appearance in a cooking demonstration at Auburn’s Fall TomatoFest in September, where he prepared a bite-sized pizza and a pasta recipe.
“They are both really easy and really, really good,” Mason said.
At this year’s Gold Country Fair, Mason’s “Mandarin Beef Slider” earned him a second-place prize in the main dish category and he won the Snow’s Citrus Court Award, a prize given for the best use of Snow’s Mandarin Mustard in a recipe. Although he said he was happy with the final version of his Mandarin Beef Slider, Mason admitted it took a little bit of work to develop. 
“I came up with a recipe for a meatloaf and then I made it and it was awful,” Mason said. “I used too much seasoning and it was really bad.”
As with any challenge he faces in cooking or baking, Mason said he got a little frustrated and then kept on working on it. 
“It must have turned out pretty good because I won awards for it,” Mason said. 
Bob Bonk, of Snow’s Citrus Court, said he gave the Snow’s Citrus Court Award to Mason’s Mandarin Beef Slider because of the seamless melding of flavors in the dish.
“After a while of judging these contests things all start to taste the same but this recipe really stood out from the rest,” Bonk said. 
Bonk, who has been the judge for the Snow’s Citrus Court Award for the past several years, said when he tasted the recipe he had no idea it was created by a nine-year-old. 
“It is surprising to see a nine-year-old be so creative in the kitchen,” Bonk said. “He’s definitely the youngest recipient of our award.”  
In addition to being a budding chef, Mason is also the Vice President of the student body at Alta Vista Community Charter School where he is in the third grade. Patty Leftridge, Alta Vista Community Charter Principal, attended Mason’s cooking demonstration at the TomatoFest and said she was impressed by what she saw and tasted.
“I went home and made his recipe and it was darn good,” Leftridge said. “It was probably the best thing I’ve cooked in years.” 
Mason’s mom, Kathy Partak, said her son began helping her in the kitchen at an early age.  
“He was comfortable with a pastry bag by the age of two and we always taught him how to properly use kitchen tools,” she said.
Watching her son’s cooking skills develop over the years Kathy Partak said she knew he had a special talent. In order to showcase his talents and share his skills, Mason created online video tutorials where he shares cooking tips and recipes, ranging from how to roll out cookie dough to what to do with leftover turkey. 
“He is really comfortable on camera and his cooking technique is stellar,” Kathy Partak said. “I keep waiting for him to lose interest, but if he sticks with it he could be wildly successful someday.” 
Mason’s next scheduled appearance will be a cooking demonstration at the Strawberry Festival at the Placer County Fairgrounds in Roseville in May.