Top (Preteen) Chefs

Writing about culinarily gifted kids always dances on that narrow dividing line between cute and ipecac. This month’s Food & Wine has a feature that comes in (just barely) on the cute side of the divide, documenting the winners of its Ultimate Kid Cook Contest. Although ultimate implies that the losers face death, the contest takes a lighter approach, giving the two grand-prize winners $170 in cooking tools and leaving the losers unscathed.

The accompanying story pokes around in the mostly upper-middle-class world of kids who craft frittatas and eat blue cheese, and concludes quite reasonably that it’s good to give children a creative realm where they can feel in control. Spatulatta, the streaming-video website hosted by two preteen sisters—presumably assisted by their television reporter–food critic father—also gets much love.

The male grand-prize winner was Alexander Donowitz, a six-year-old from Brooklyn whose Beet and Cheddar Risotto looks pretty darn edible. He cogently observes that beets should be better loved by his peers. “They’re sweet, they’re juicy: What could be in them that kids don’t like?”

Fair enough. The other grand-prize winner, 11-year-old Catherine Ralston from New Albany, Ohio, offered up Spotted Porcupine Cookies, which appear to be M&M cookies with pretzel sticks jammed into them. Well, she’s definitely got some time to refine her approach.

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