Kids Who Cook: Meet Four Atlanta Kid Chefs
Celebrity chefs and TV cooking shows may be spawning a generation of culinary artists. Meet four Atlanta kids causing a stir in the kitchen. Also check our our list of kids cooking classes in Atlanta, cookbooks and kitchen products for your chef-in-the-making.
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Age 13; Milton
Winner of Season 5 of FOX MasterChef Junior
Jasmine Stewart remembers cooking with her parents from a young age. Even through mishaps in the kitchen, her mom told her to keep going, advice she took with her on MasterChef Junior.
“Through the show, even when I was eliminated at one point, I remembered my mom saying it would turn out okay,” Stewart says.
She was chosen for the show after auditioning in Atlanta. She pushed through numerous challenges, got eliminated and won the comeback challenge. She kept succeeding to become the winner of Season 5, against 40 other competitors.
“My favorite thing was getting to work with the judges, Gordon and Christina, because they are huge idols to me from TV,” she says. “I also loved meeting other kids who love to cook.”
Stewart hopes to host her own cooking show one day, “Like Giada or Bobby Flay,” she says and combine her love for cooking and a newly-discovered love of being in front of the camera.
Age 12; Sugar Hill
Runner-Up of Season 5 FOX MasterChef Junior
Justise Mayberry would always snack in the kitchen when her dad cooked, and then took an interest in cooking herself.
“I took it upon myself to learn and shared recipes with my mom,” Mayberry says. She decided to try out for MasterChef Junior and went through the process in Georgia and then California.
“It was intimidating to be around a lot of chefs and judges, but I continued to push myself and set goals every week,” she says. Mayberry kept winning until she landed a seat as runner-up in Season 5. During the competitions, she even won a challenge to meet Michelle Obama at the White House.
“I thought I knew a lot about cooking before the show, but I learned so many new dishes and techniques,” she says. “Gordon pushed us to be better, not to be mean, and he is there to support us.”
In the future, Mayberry would love to open a restaurant, or be a teacher or a marine biologist. “I have the passion now and would love to open a restaurant as a kid or teen. I create images for what recipes will look like in my head.”
Age 13; Stockbridge
C.E.O. of S.N.A.C. it up! And shilachef.com
Shi Curry started cooking at age 6, and began plating and presenting any food she could, even cereal, says her mom Celeste.
Her parents noticed her love for cooking and encouraged this with each trip to the grocery store. “I remember watching MasterChef on TV and Gordon Ramsay,” Curry says. “Even though he yelled a lot, I liked him and his cooking.”
She began copying Ramsay’s recipes and then started developing her own all-vegan and vegetarian dishes.
In 2012, she started her own brand, “Shi’s Natural Approach to Cooking” or S.N.A.C., where she shares healthy cooking demonstrations, recipes and positive thoughts through videos and her cookbook.
When asked about her advice for young chefs she says, “Make sure you don’t wait until you are older, you can start now.”
Age 13; Decatur
Son of Atlanta-based chef, Mihoko Obunai and Savannah-based chef, Joe Truex
Yohan Obunai-Truex grew up with chefs as parents, and started helping in the kitchen at age 4. “I started by helping my mom and then I started making breakfast. By the time I was 10 or 11, I was making dinner for the whole family,” he says.
He enjoys making pasta, and continues to practice under his mom, Mihoko Obunai, who appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, has been involved in several restaurant ventures and won the Ramen Battle at the 2015 StarChefs International Congress.
Starting in January, Obunai-Truex will be co-teaching other kids at The Cooking School at Irwin Street. “I am going to be teaching spaghetti and meatballs to kids my age with Jake,” Obunai-Truex says. “We are going to also teach a class called Whacko Tacos and we’ll be making tortillas from scratch with a press. It’s really easy and fun.”
He says he doesn’t plan to be a professional chef, but he loves doing it. “Cooking is a really good skill to have and you can learn from your mistakes. You can save money not going out and spending at expensive restaurants,” he says.