In Friday’s print edition, we had a story about Ben Starr, who’s on the current season of MasterChef and doing quite well, thank you very much. But before he was a TV celeb, he was a goofy poor kid from Abilene who liked to cook. Below are some pictures he has shared with us from his culinary past‚ as well as some commentary from Starr himself. The next episode of MasterChef airs tonight on Fox.

This is me with my homemade pizza after winning first place in a cooking contest around age 10. Now I have a wood-fired pizza oven in my backyard that I built myself from homemade refractory concrete, and pizzas are one of my specialities. I make the crust (and regular bread loaves as well) using a sourdough starter I brought back from Egypt along with the spent grain leftover from the beer I make.
The second is me at age 8 in show-and-tell, teaching kids about chickens. I brought Rocky the Rooster from home that day. I had a backyard flock of 12 laying hens here in Lewisville for two years until the bird flu panic struck and the city asked me to find them a new home where they wouldn’t terrify suburban housewives.
Finally, this is me at age 9 with one of the sheep I raised, after winning a ribbon at a livestock show in Abilene. I raised sheep from the time I could walk until I left home at 17 for college. When I start my farm in Hawaii, I’ll be switching to goats — better milk!