Local Teen Chefs Get Fresh and Get Published

Deanna Foster

If you have a teen chef at home, or if you are a teen’s chef, you’ll be well served to head to the Westport Barnes and Noble on Tuesday, Dec. 15th, at 7:00 pm. for a book signing and tasting to celebrate the release of Rozanne Gold’s latest cookbook, EAT FRESH FOOD: Awesome Recipes for Teen Chefs.  For this venture Gold recruited a brigade of teens, six of whom are Westport residents: Danielle Hartog (15), Deanna Hartog (11), Gwen Beal (15), Andrew Miller (15), Caroline Foster (15), Margaux Stamm (15) who helped recipe test and taste many of the 80+ recipes in this book.

FRESH stands for: farmer friendly, ripe-ready, easy-exciting, sustainable and honest-healthy and this book lives up to its name. Don’t think this is another cute kids’ cookbook. This is a book for teens, written by a James Beard award-winning chef and author who has teen’s interests, sensibilities and taste buds in mind.  Gold has chosen recipes with few ingredients, 6-8 on average and that are easy to make, most take about 30 minutes prep. Only recipes the teen chefs and tasters loved and had a good time making are included in the book; those that made the cut are inspiring. 

You will find interesting twists on old standards, like Mac-n-Cheese with Cauliflower and Creamy Red Pepper Sauce, Peanut Butter Hummus, and Pasta Primavera with Jade Zucchini Sauce. For something really different, adventurous chefs can try their hand at the Grape and Pignoli Breakfast Cake or the Chocolate Chili with Cauliflower Popcorn or the Chickpea Burger with Fresh Mango Salsa and Sriracha Ketchup.

Not my kid, you may be thinking, but don’t be too quick to dismiss. When I spoke with Danielle Hartog, one of the 15 year old co-chefs, she told me “a lot of my friends want to cook”, and at this stage of their lives are “willing to try new foods and experience new flavors.” Danielle also offered this insight: “Kids have so many unhealthy food temptations. These fantastic foods give them an alternative and they can do it alone and be independent. They can take a big step in becoming more responsible. If you’re a teen whose parents work, you can enjoy good food rather than a frozen dinner or some junky alternative.” 

EAT FRESH FOOD focuses on natural, unprocessed foods, highlighting fruits and vegetables. Gold called upon nutritionist Helen Kimmel to consult on the healthfulness of each recipe.  Helen believes this cookbook will help kids see that “the kitchen is both a place to gather your friends and a place to enjoy some time alone… where you’ll learn the pleasures of cooking with real ingredients and soon you won’t need or desire chemical-laden, over-processed food.”  If this sounds too healthy for you, fear not, in her introductory comments, Gold states: “I believe that butter, sugar, honey, real maple syrup, unbleached white and whole-wheat flours, cheese, red meat and chocolate can be enjoyed in responsible ways.”  This book will show you just how that’s possible.

The book is beautifully photographed and features kids choosing, prepping and cooking food.  Phil Mansfield has captured not only the vibrant colors of the food, but the true spirit of the endeavor itself.  These kids are having fun and they are working with intent. The teen chefs plated all the food – no food stylists involved here, so while the photos are beautiful, they are not fussy.  On the whole, this is a very approachable book for teens and parents alike.  Star-burst banners call out hightlights of certain recipes: Bombay Sliders are “FUN TO EAT”, Lemony Ziti with Broccoli Parsnips and Proscuitto has “AMAZING FLAVOR” and Blueberry Muffins are a “CINCH TO PREPARE”.

I’m eager to have my 10 year old choose some recipes we can make together and some she can accomplish on her own.  Congratulations to Rozanne Gold and her team of co-chefs for not giving up on teens and their eating habits, but meeting them where they are and giving them a useful tool to explore alternatives.

Book signing and recipe sampling at the Westport Barnes and Noble, 1076 Post Road East, December 15th at 7:00 pm.