Caitlyn White has found the recipe for success. At age 11, the budding chef recently won an episode of Food Network’s “Chopped Junior” program.
“I didn’t know whether I’d win going into the competition, but I felt really good about my chances,” Caitlyn says.
The Arnold resident has been cooking at home for many years, but never considered entering a cooking competition until her cousin encouraged her to apply and send in an audition video.
“Honestly, we never thought they’d call her,” says Caitlyn’s mom, Cindi White.
Not long after applying, the Food Network requested a phone interview followed by a FaceTime interview. Every few weeks, the network contacted the family for information, until three weeks before airing when Cindy got a call asking the family to come to New York.
“We weren’t allowed to tell anyone we were filming the show, and I had to get off work and couldn’t tell anyone why. It definitely made things tricky,” says Cindi, who is a middle school teacher at St. John the Evangelist in Severna Park, where Caitlyn attends.
Cindi travelled with Caitlyn and her sisters, Cameron, 13, and Cara, 6, to New York City for three days while the show was taped.
“I got to meet the judges and see the studio and cook in the Food Network kitchen,” Caitlyn says. “It was scary, but also really fun.”
The competitors on “Chopped Junior” are given four ingredients that must be incorporated as they cook an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert. Caitlyn impressed the judges with her appetizer of Italian wedding soup, her entrée of steak sandwich with bell peppers and marinara with a side of beet leaf chips, and her dessert of a tropical cookie dough trifle.
“They really liked the soup a lot,” Caitlyn says. “I had made it before at home, but not that way.”
Caitlyn cooks once or twice a week at home and enjoys making salmon and various noodle dishes. She first learned to cook from her mother, an avid baker.
“I’ve always baked with the girls,” Cindi says. “But Caitlyn is the one who took a lasting interest. I’m a pretty basic cook, but Caitlyn is adventurous.”
She recently cooked a dinner of garlic pork medallions and three kinds of cauliflower, her mother explains.
Caitlyn began cooking more when her father passed away from melanoma in July 2015.
“Caitlyn has stepped up a lot and has really helped out in the kitchen,” Cindi says.
As winner of “Chopped Junior,” Caitlyn received $10,000 that she plans to put towards the purchase of a new Irish dance dress. The rest will go into savings for college.
She spends most of her free time Irish dancing at the Hunt School in Gambrills— a talent she showcased on the show — and playing field hockey, basketball and lacrosse. Her newfound fame has not gone to her head, and she still loves trying out new recipes in her family’s kitchen.
“I love cooking because it’s exciting and I really like to experiment,” she says. “But mostly I like it because it’s fun.”
By Katie Riley