Chefs of the future
Contest has kids cookin’ good
AT 13, ISAIAH CUZCO knows his way around a kitchen.
The teen grew up watching his grandfather concoct homemade recipes in their Staten Island home and the cooking bug bit him young.
“He was always the one motivating me to do better with cooking and everything,” Isaiah said of his grandfather, Paco, who hails from Puerto Rico. “So he’s the one reason why I’m trying to cook even more.”
Isaiah, a seventh-grader at Eagle Academy of Staten Island, was part of a baker’s dozen of young chefs Saturday at the Institute of Culinary Education in Battery Park City.
He and the other kids were competing in the Recipe Rescue cooking competition, put together by the Department of Youth and Community Development and the Compass comprehensive after school program.
The pint-sized culinary artists faced off in three different divisions — chopping, mashing, baking and dicing the day away.
Five elementary students cooked breakfast, six middle schoolers did lunch, and two high schoolers faced off over dinner dishes.
The competitors had submitted recipes that were interesting to them, and transformed them to make them healthier.
Isaiah cooked up a basil chicken burger with baked sweet potato fries. The mouth-watering burger was served topped with fresh guacamole and cooked peppers and onions.
His recipe was scratched on a piece of loose leaf paper in pencil — a trick he had to develop himself because his grandfather never follows directions.
“He never follows a recipe. Never has. Never will. He just has everything offhand, knowing what he needs, knowing how much should go in,” Isaiah said.
More than 75 kids submitted applications for Saturday’s program. The aim of the contest was to get kids involved with culinary arts and dietary awareness.
There were trophies for the winners, in the shape of chefs’ hats, whisks and pots.
“I’m doing this for my family right now,” Isaiah said. “I want to do it for my grandfather so he knows I can do it. So he knows I can do it and be successful.”
Isaiah Camacho, 11, and Richard Telleria (inset r.) prepare their dishes.
Khatia Pickens makes oatmeal muffins at the Recipe Rescue youth cooking competition at Battery Park City Saturday.