Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Interview with Kid Chef Eliana

11 year old Kid Chef Eliana grew up in a family of cooks. With grandparents from the Philippines, Cajun Louisiana, Cuba, and Honduras, Eliana’s recipes have international flair. She loves traveling and spending time in the kitchen with her family. Eliana says, “Cooking is so much fun. You can be creative and invent new recipes.” When asked to name her favorite food, Eliana says, “It’s hard to pick a favorite because I like so many kinds of food.” In the future, Eliana plans to design cookware for kids, create a line of spices, and host her own TV cooking show. She also wants to teach kids that good food is more than chicken nuggets and French fries. Eliana’s first cook book, Eliana Cooks! Recipes for Creative Kids was released in October 2010. She is avidly at work on her second cookbook, Eliana Cooks Louisiana! Her motto is, “Cool kids cook and get creative in the kitchen!”

I appreciate Eliana and her mom for taking out the time to interview with us. It's a great interview! Check out what the Kid Chef had to say:

What is your favorite cereal? How do you prefer to eat it?

My favorite cereal is Honey Bunches of Oats with Pecan Clusters. As a cereal, I prefer to eat it with regular milk. The great thing about this cereal is that you can use it to create an entree' by blending it in a food processor and using it as a crust on boneless, skinless chicken breast. Add your favorite seasoning salt and it becomes a sweet and savory oven-fried chicken.

If you could change your name to a food item, what would it be?

If I were to change my name to the name of a food item, it would be Chef Sundae. The reason that I picked this is because it's cute and sweet.

What's the greatest joy you've received so far from cooking?

I get the greatest satisfaction knowing that I help kids change the way they look at food and eat. For example, I was doing my "Fresh from the Garden Salsa" cooking demo and a 6 year old girl had never eaten a tomato in her life. Her father told me that she refused to put a tomato in her mouth. As soon as she tried my salsa, she loved it. She had three servings! Her father said I changed her life. Good food can do that!

How often do you cook and who do you usually cook for?

I cook often for my family at home, usually about 3-4 times a week. On weekends, I like making breakfast. During the week, I make a quick, simple dinner like  sauteed lemon garlic chicken.

What is your signature dish?

Everyone loves my "Fresh from the Garden Salsa." It has a secret ingredient in it and people often ask me if they can buy it. My "Garlic Cumin Potatoes" rock and are great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

What child star would you like to cook for?

I would like to cook for Amanda Cosgrove of the Nickelodeon show, iCarly. I think she is funny and she looks like she has a great personality.

What advice do you have for children that would like to start cooking?

The most important thing for kids to learn before they start cooking is kitchen safety and cleanliness. Younger children should always have a grown-up present in the kitchen. Older kids should learn proper knife techniques. Keeping kids safe and keeping a kitchen clean is a priority before anyone starts cooking.

What is your most inventive dish?

One of my most inventive dishes for kids are my "Ladybug Pizzettas." Pizzettas are mini pizzas. Using refrigerated, ready-made pizza dough, I cut the pizzettas out using a large drinking glass turned upside down. The pizzetta is garnished with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, tomato slices, and chopped black olives. It's a delicious vegetarian meal!

What was the last appearance you made?

On July 22, 2011, I appeared on Louisiana's most-viewed morning show in New Orleans, WWL Eyewitness News. I cooked Scotch Eggs, Garlic Cumin Potatoes, and Devil's Food Monster Muffins on camera and made breakfast for the entire crew. The next day, I had an appearance at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, where I demonstrated my "Perfect Pesto" using fresh basil from my nana's garden and showed people how versatile pesto is.

What do you think about "fast food"?

I think that most fast food is bad for you but if you have to eat it, you can make healthier choices. For instance, when I eat at McDonald's, I get a small hamburger, apple dippers, and apple juice. This is a much better alternative to french fries and soda.

What 5 spices do you believe are "must haves"? 

My favorite "must-have" spices are paprika (for color and browning), cumin (for that smoky flavor), dried basil, garlic powder (in the absence of fresh garlic), and oregano. Of course, no chef can work without S&P (salt and pepper)!!

What simple tips can you give to our viewers?

To keep fruit like apples and pears from going brown, brush them with a little pineapple, lemon or lime juice. I prefer pineapple because it adds a sweetness to the fruit.

Treat every meal special. People eat with their eyes first so plate your food with pizzazz and style!

Invest in a good knife and learn how to sharpen it properly. A chef's worst enemy in the kitchen is a dull knife. It's dangerous.

How do you balance going to school and being a kid chef?

Homework comes first. My education is important so I make sure to do well in school. During the week, I do my homework quickly so that I have time to cook and watch food television. During the school year, my appearances are limited to the weekends and holidays. My family believes in the importance of a good education.

What are 3 quick after school snacks?

Ants on a Log - Peanut butter-filled celery sticks topped with raisins.

Homemade Tortilla Chips with Salsa - Cut a tortilla into small triangles. Place them in the oven at 350 degrees for ten minutes or until golden brown. Serve with healthy salsa.

Mixed Berry Salad - In a small bowl toss your favorite berries with 2 tbsp. of pineapple juice and 2 tbsp. of your favorite yogurt. You can add granola or nuts for crunch.

What is one funny food story that you can remember?

One time, I was cooking a new recipe called "What's Up, Chicken Butt?" I took a soda can and filled it with Italian dressing and ginger ale, and then mixed it a little. Next I stuffed the can into the cavity of the chicken (the big hole in the chicken). Finally, I put the chicken on the grill on indirect heat. That means you only turn on half of the grill, place the chicken on the side that's turned off, and close the grill. Later on, my mom and I checked the chicken to make sure it was cooking. When we looked at the chicken, it was a nice golden brown but we thought that it wasn't cooking fast enough. So we turned on the grill underneath the chicken on low heat. Finally, the chicken was ready to be taken off the grill. When we opened the grill, the chicken was BURNED!!! It was burned so badly that it was completely black. As you know, chefs have to improvise. I took all the burned skin off the chicken and pulled little pieces to put in a salad. It wasn't what I planned, but it turned out great!

What is your favorite girl scout cookie?

I really love Tagalongs. Chocolate and peanut butter with that cookie crunch is such a great combination.

Check out Eliana's "Fresh From The Garden" cooking tutorial

Kid Chef Eliana
Author of Eliana Cooks! Recipes for Creative Kids
Twitter: @KidChefEliana

Pics from Eliana's website and youtube channel

Conducted by Celeste



Unreal!!!! Wow, talk about talented! I wonder if she can go to my kids school and teach a class or two.

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