Kids in the Kitchen

by Brenda Shafer

These local chefs are known as masters of their craft. They’ve attended cooking school, competed on national culinary challenges, and perfected flavor profiles others can only dream of…and they’re not even in high school yet. Meet local kids taking over their parents’ kitchens and making names for themselves in the world of fine dining. They may be small, but their aspirations are not!


Warehouse Row

Abbi Steele

10 years old
5th grader at Silverdale Baptist Academy
Helping in the kitchen since age 5
Loves baking and wants to own a bakery when she grows up
Parents, Ashley and Chris Steele, younger sister, Anna


Mini Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bundt Cakes

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup olive oil
3 large eggs at room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour (no sifting needed)
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 cups pumpkin purée
1/2 – 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, vanilla extract, and oil until blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the flour, baking soda, ground cinnamon, and salt. Add dry mixture to the egg mixture, alternating with the pumpkin, beating well after each addition. Fold in the chocolate chips. Transfer the batter to greased mini bundt cake molds. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool completely before inverting onto a wire rack.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Glaze

8 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup milk
Pinch of salt

Mix all the ingredients together with an electric mixer. Pour over bundt cakes.

Photos by Karen Culp

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Alana Zavala    

11 years old
6th grader at Baylor
Panini creator and pancake specialist
Loves baking from scratch
Favorite restaurant is Community Pie
Favorite meal is pan-fried fish with French fries
Parents, Drs. Lisa Smith and David Bruce

Homemade Chocolate Chip Brownie Cookies

Preheat oven 350˚. Line an 8×8 inch pan with parchment paper, set aside.

For Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

6 tbsp. butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (plus more to press on top)

To make the chocolate chip cookie dough, in a large bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla extract. Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt until well combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Set aside.

For Chewy Cocoa Brownie Batter

10 tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)

To make the brownie batter, in a large bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract. Stir in cocoa powder until combined. Stir in flour and salt until all flour is incorporated. Fold in mini chocolate chips if using.

Spread brownie batter evenly into prepared 8×8 inch pan. Drop the cookie dough by the spoonful over the batter until covered.Stick additional chocolate chips into the cookie dough. Bake for 35-40 minutes. It will continue to cook as it cools, so be careful not to over bake. Check it at the 30-minute mark. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack to finish cooling. Once cooled, cut into squares and serve. Store in airtight container.

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Joshua Lefkoff 

14 years old
8th grader at Baylor
Started cooking when he was 8
Favorite foods are sushi and pizza
Loves making any kind of international food
Wants to be a chef when he grows up
Featured on Food Network’s “Chopped Junior” last year
Parents, Rebecca and David Lefkoff

Bayou Jambalaya

2 large celery stalks, diced
1 onion, diced
28 oz. smoked sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 tbsp. parsley, chopped
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 cup Coca-Cola
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 can (14 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
3 cups water
1 lb. uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 bay leaf
1 & 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice

Combine celery, onion, and sausage in large skillet over medium-high heat and cook 5 minutes. Add garlic and bell pepper and stir; cook 3-4 minutes. Add parsley, oregano, thyme, and paprika; stir and cook 1 minute.

Add Coca-Cola, wine, tomatoes and juice, water, shrimp, bay leaf, and rice. Increase to high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer, covered, 25 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove bay leaf before serving. Makes 8 servings.

Photos by Rich Smith

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Jeffrey/ ‘Cheffrey’ Brockway 

13 years old
8th grader at Gordon Lee Middle
Wants to attend Le Cordon Bleu
Self-professed “food snob”
Favorite TV show is the Great British Baking Show
Tries a new recipe every weekend
Parents, Marisa and Jeff Brockway

Cheffrey’s Sausage Pastries

1 large red onion (or 2 small red onions)
3 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 package fresh mushrooms (white or baby bella)
Handful of fresh thyme
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
1 lb. pork sausage
1/4 cup fine bread crumbs
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
2 tbsp. parsley, chopped
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 box Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry (2 sheets), thawed

Preheat oven to 425˚. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Thinly slice onion and add to skillet with butter and brown sugar. Cook on low heat for 20 minutes or until caramelized. Add mushrooms, thyme, and pinch of salt to food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Put mixture in dry skillet, cook on medium until dry. Set aside to cool. Beat 1 egg in a large bowl until frothy. Add the sausage, breadcrumbs, garlic, onion powder, parsley, and mustard. Mix until combined. Divide sausage mixture into 6 equal parts.

Unfold thawed puff pastry onto floured surface, roll thin, and divide each sheet into 3 equal rectangles (6 total). Place a layer of mushrooms in the center of each section of the pastry, lengthwise. Then place a thin layer of the caramelized onions over the layer of mushrooms. Shape each portion of sausage into a roll, and place down the center of each puff pastry strip, over the onion layer. Fold pastry over and press seam to seal. Cut each roll into 6 equal pieces (about 2 inches). Place on baking sheet. Crack second egg and dispose of yolk; brush pastries with egg white wash. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.

Photos by Terry Henson

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Cali Sandhoff   

12 years old
6th grader at Chattanooga Christian School
Began cooking at age 4
Takes classes at The Sweet & Savory Classroom
Her favorite meal is steak and mashed potatoes
Favorite foods to make are homemade pasta, bread, and stuffed mushrooms with her grandmother
Parents, Sandra and Jeff Sandhoff, older sisters, Lucy and Jenna

French Bread

15 oz. bread flour
2/5 oz. salt
1/4 oz. yeast, instant
9 & 1/2 oz. water

Using the straight dough method, mix all the dry ingredients together in your bowl. Slowly add water as needed until it reaches a soft dough consistency, can be tacky but not sticky. Take out of bowl and continue to knead on the tabletop for 8-10 minutes until it can pass the windowpane test (meaning you can stretch the dough into a thin membrane without it breaking). Place dough back into bowl and cover. Allow to double (ferment) in size, which may take up to an hour. Place somewhere warm that is under 90˚. Punch dough. Let rest for 5 minutes. Shape dough into a rectangle, roll, and pinch. After bottom seam is pinched together, continue to roll out dough to desired length. Allow to proof with a kitchen towel laying loosely over the loaves. When bread is ready, a finger indent will stay in the dough and not puff back out. Score tops of loaves. Bake at 400˚ with steam (can be done by placing a pan of water in the bottom of your oven) until golden brown. Makes 2 medium baguettes or 4 small baguettes.

Photos by Karen Culp

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Gwyneth Carpenter    

6 years old
1st grader, homeschooled
Likes painting and making up songs
Enjoys making soups and tie-dye cookies
Favorite food is anything with sugar, refried beans, black olives, or shrimp
Always helps mom with Christmas Eve dinner
Parents, Lauren and Barry Carpenter


For Chocolate Ganache:

1 cup heavy whipping cream
8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
Bring 1 cup cream to a simmer. Remove from heat. Add chips and let sit with the lid on 5 minutes. Remove lid and stir.

Peppermint Marshmallows

Powdered sugar
2 tbsp. Knox gelatin (2 packets)
1/2 cup plus 8 tbsp. cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. peppermint extract

Dust an 8- or 9-inch square pan with powdered sugar. Set aside. In a small bowl, soak gelatin in 8 tbsp. cold water. Set aside. Combine granulated sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a large heavy saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until dissolved. Add gelatin and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Pour into a large mixing bowl and let stand until partially cool. Add salt and vanilla and peppermint extract. Beat with an electric mixer until soft and doubled in volume, about 10-15 minutes. Pour into prepared pan to 1/2-inch thickness. Set to cool until it will not stick to your finger. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces and roll in powdered sugar. Dip in chocolate ganache and garnish with sprinkles.

Photos by Karen Culp

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Figlestahler Boys    

Andrew 12 years old, wants to sell insurance like his dad when he grows up
Jack 10 years old, wants to be in the army when he grows up
John Peter 8 years old, wants to be a surgeon when he grows up
Patrick 6 years old, wants to work with his daddy when he grows up
All attend Silverdale Baptist Academy
Parents, Sissy and Andy Figlestahler

Authentic Bolognese

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 lb. ground chuck beef
1/2 lb. pancetta, coarsely chopped
1 cup dry Italian red wine
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
Salt and ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. When almost smoking, add the onion and garlic, and sauté over medium heat until the onions become very soft, about 8 minutes. Add the celery and carrot, and sauté for 5 minutes. Raise heat to high and add ground beef and pancetta. Sauté, stirring frequently and breaking up any large lumps, and cook until meat is no longer pink, about 10 minutes. After grease has cooked down, add red wine. Let it cook until the liquid is almost gone. Add the tomatoes, parsley, and basil, and cook over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper. This will take approximately 30 minutes. Finish the Bolognese with Pecorino Romano. Serve over pasta and garnish with parsley.

Photos by Karen Culp

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Henri Collins   

12 years old
7th grader at McCallie
Helping in the kitchen since age 3
Loves baking and his favorite foods to cook are pumpkin bread and Panko-crusted chicken
Favorite food is pizza
Wants to be an engineer or architect when he grows up
Parents, Meg and Darian Collins

Chicken Puff Pastry

1/2 box Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 to 3/4 cup red pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup yellow pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup zucchini
1/2 to 3/4 cup yellow squash
2 tbsp. butter
1 egg
1 lb. chicken breasts cut into small cubes (boneless, skinless)
1 can (14.5 oz.) low-sodium chicken broth
1/2-2/3 cup dry white wine or vermouth
1/3-1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp. basil
1 tbsp. tarragon
1 tbsp. parsley
Salt & pepper to taste
2 tbsp. margarine
3 tbsp. flour

Thaw puff pastry sheets on counter for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, sauté onion, peppers, zucchini, and squash with butter. Sauté until tender but not browned. Turn oven to 400˚. Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry and then refold it in half. Cut into 2-4 evenly sized rectangles (each two layers thick). Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Place the bottom layer of each rectangle on the baking sheet. Whisk egg in a small bowl. With a brush, lightly brush the tops of each rectangle on the baking sheet with the egg mixture. Place the top layers of puff pastry rectangles on top of the other. Pinch the corners to seal all the way around. With a knife, lightly cut a small square in the middle of each rectangle. Do not remove it, as this will be the opening to place the chicken and vegetables into the cooked pastry. Again, brush the top of the rectangle with the egg mixture. Bake in the oven for 15-17 minutes or until golden brown.

In a medium saucepan, add cubed chicken, chicken broth, and wine (or vermouth). Cook on medium-high heat until chicken begins to turn white. Add heavy cream and turn heat up to high. When it begins to lightly boil, reduce heat to medium. Add the sautéed vegetables, herbs, and salt and pepper. Stir frequently. Add chicken mixture to the pan used to sauté vegetables earlier. In a separate pan, combine the margarine and flour to make a paste-like substance on low heat. Once the flour is fully absorbed into the margarine, add this to the chicken and vegetable mixture. This will add some thickness to the sauce. If needed, add a pinch more flour directly into the mixture. Once the sauce begins to thicken a bit, reduce heat to low and cover to simmer.

Remove puff pastry from the oven. Poke down the square cut in the middle. Carefully ladle the chicken and vegetable mixture in the square opening in the pastry. Serve warm. Serves 2-4 (depending on pastry size).

Photos by Karen Culp

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