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.

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