UPDATE: She won the competition and the $10,000 prize. Way to go Cookie!
14-year-old Sacred Heart student, Cookie Dutch will appear on the Food Network’s “Chopped Junior,” this Tuesday night, Dec. 22 at 8:00 p.m. – all time zones.
In the show, three young chefs display their talents as they compete for a $10,000 prize. The reality television show presents each contestant with a mysterious box filled with unknown ingredients. When the timer starts, each junior chef has a limited amount of time to make the most delicious dish from the predetermined items. The final results are evaluated by judges.
Cookie trained for the show with Coronado chef and caterer, Chef Celestina. Cookie credits Chef Celestina for taking her from a cook to a chef. Under the tutelage of the senior chef, Cookie learned how to work with food and spices. When I asked her about Cookie, Chef Celestina said: “I’ve been a chef for over 20 years, cooked all over the world and mentoring Cookie has been one of the biggest highlights because it is extraordinarily rare to find someone of her age that already possesses an incredible amount of pure talent and passion for our craft. She has the unadulterated joy of a 14-year-old, but the passion and diverse talent of chef Eric Ripert.” Chef Celestina has known Cookie since she was eight. Today Chef Celestina is the Executive chef and co-owner of A Moveable Feast based in Coronado – A super club and catering venue. Already the waiting list is many months long.
Cookie credits Chef Mark at Sur La Table in Fashion Valley for encouraging her to apply for a position on the well-known show and for providing her valuable cooking lessons. As Cookie’s skills have increased, she has served as a sous-chef to Chef Mark.
The bright and energetic 14-year-old also enthused about her teachers, friends, and mentors around Coronado. She values the support and encouragement they have all given her as she has prepared for the competition.
Cookie’s mother, Michelle Dutch, explained that Cookie had an interest in food since she was a little girl. “She was always following me around the kitchen, curious as to what I was making and how food came together.” Sensing Cookie’s interest, but not being a experienced cook herself, Michelle enrolled Cookie in a cooking class at Whole Foods Market Grocery when they were living in Austin, Texas.
Coronado provides Cookie with some great eateries and sources of ingredients. Cookie’s favorite Coronado restaurants are Tartine and Primavera. Given Cookie’s passion for French cooking and all things Julia Child, it’s not surprising that she would enjoy the food at these wonderful restaurants. Cookie admires French cooking because it’s comforting, warm, and delicious.
While the Dutch’s have traveled far and wide, even giving Cookie the opportunity to shop for spices in Zanzibar, Tanzania, Cookie usually rides her bike up to Boney’s or Vons to get her ingredients. Sometimes she takes the ferry over to the Farmer’s Market in Little Italy for produce and meats.
Cookie explained that there isn’t much difference between Chopped and Chopped Junior, other than the set: “The work ethic is the same – we are not given any easier ingredients.”
On the set, Cookie relished talking with other young people who are as passionate about food as she is. She and her fellow junior chefs, shared ideas, interests, and goals for the future. Cookie said of the other contestants: “They were so relatable.”
Cookie was nervous when she received the news that she had been selected to be on the show, but after training for months with Chef Cel, she felt ready to go. If Cookie wins the $10,000 prize, she plans on using part of the money for professional copper pots, and the other part of the money for college.
Focused and passionate, Cookies plans on attending a four-year university after high school (Northwestern and NYU being her first choices), then on to graduate school for a Master’s degree in Business. After this, Cookie’s dream is study at the Le Cordon Blue in Paris.
Cookie’s mother celebrates her daughter’s dreams and successes. Michelle explained that Cookie’s siblings also love their sister’s interests: “It’s been amazing for her two sisters and brother – Cookie always has something cooking that they know will be delicious to eat!”
In the meantime, Coronado residents will be tuned in to “Junior Chopped” at 8p on Dec. 22, to cheer on our very own “Junior Chef.” If you want to get a preview of the fun, watch this Food Network Chopped Junior Trailer.