For most of us, age 4 is mostly given over to learning the alphabet and a bit of early socialization. But whiz kid chef Kate Daniel was busy helping her mom make lemon cakes. Now that she’s 11 and a Memorial Middle School sixth grader, the accomplished young cook has shot a soon-to-air episode of Food Network's Chopped Junior and helped her mom start a kids-only cooking school in West Memorial, Houston’s first.
What were you doing when you were 11?
Figlia Kitchen, a culinary school catered toward children from the ages of six to 18, was inspired by Kate and her love of cooking. Kate’s mom, Brooke, said that Figlia—which means “daughter” in Italian—is meant to inspire kids to find their love for cooking. There are events and classes for adults, too, but the school's raison d'être is getting youngsters in the kitchen who might not otherwise discover a passion for it—in fact, there are classes just for boys.
“We were looking for a place in Houston that offers after-school kids cooking classes for Kate, but it didn’t exist,” Brooke said in a press release. “Kids take dance, gymnastics or practice sports after school—we thought there should be a place where kids can enjoy learning to cook.”
Kate tested her culinary skills out in Chopped Junior's kitchen, a spin-off of the grown-up show, which pits four young cooks against each other in making dishes prepared with a motley collection of mystery ingredients. You could say she’s talented, too—she beat out 5,000 other applicants to get the spot.
Kate cooked food like spring pasta with light lemon cream sauce using the secret ingredients of veggie cream cheese, lentil chips, spring peas and canned hot dog pasta. Because of her own experience, Kate said that she and her mom love seeing successful dishes come out of the chefs in Figlia Kitchen’s classes.
“I have to say that I think I became more confident when I started cooking on my own and creating some really yummy things by myself,” Kate said. “I like helping other kids with that.”
The plan for Figlia Kitchen in the future is to partner with local charities including Family Point Resources, Homemade Hope and Blessings in a Backpack.
Brooke said that they hope that the school's efforts can become a platform to help those in need, as well as teach them life skills associated with cooking like independence, kitchen safety, math and science skills and pathways to healthy eating.
“To be able to teach kids at a young age that they can make a difference with their own knowledge and skills is so important,” she said.
Kate’s episode of Chopped Junior airs Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. on Food Network.