by Shelly Peppel
Food blogs are getting more sophisticated by the hour. Recipes, photography, writing...where did all this talent come from? Well, it’s coming from a much younger generation, these days. Teens (and tweens) are making the most of their kitchen passions (and social networking skills) with mighty impressive blogs. We have some favorites, and no doubt we'll be adding to the list on a regular basis. We've asked these bloggers some questions about how they got started, their highs and lows, and where they're going next. We weren’t surprised to hear that most started cooking almost before they started reading; and the theme of learn-as-you-go came up again and again. Lucky for us they like to try new things. We’re thoroughly enjoying their culinary adventures.
Herewith, seven young food bloggers worth keeping an eye on:
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Honey & Jam
Visiting Honey & Jam is like opening a favorite picture book and being transported to another world. Author Hannah Queen’s glorious photography belies her tender age (who would believe this blog belongs to a 19-year-old?). The muted pastels and vintage feel of her still-life photos convey a sense of quiet contentment in the kitchen.
It’s easy to get lost in Honey & Jam – lost in the warmth of Hannah’s palette and in the tone of her writing. What’s not so easy is believing Hannah took up baking only three years ago, after she bought a single-subject cookbook (cupcakes, natch).
“I quickly became obsessed with finding the perfect cupcake recipe,” Queen recalls. “I never found it, but I did find a new passion.”
That passion seems to be surviving the vagaries of baking (she can laugh about the cake she salvaged from multiple disasters last Christmas) and her transition into adulthood.
Her current hope is to make a career of food photography. When classes begin at Savannah College of Art and Design next year, this student will likely shoot right to the head of the class.
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Most 16-year-olds don’t even know what a signature dish is (unless they read the menu closely at their local Olive Garden). But Jeremy Salamon actually has one (and it doesn’t involve cereal). His Fusilli Cole features pasta with chicken, sautéed vegetables and herbs in a wine reduction.
Yep, you read that right: a wine reduction.
His blog, Jeremy Cooks, hasn’t hit the one-year mark yet, and already JeremyCooks TV is in the works. Along with a silver medal from the American Culinary Federation Salon, this enterprising teen also boasts experience cooking at the South Beach Food & Wine Festival and interviews with many popular Food Network stars.
Something of a celebrity himself, Jeremy attends a culinary high school, networks with kids and adults across the country who want to cook (or just talk about cooking), and even sports a culinary dictionary on his site.
“My days are anything but normal,” Jeremy says. “My friends, however, keep me grounded.”
His motto? “Keep on Cooking.” Clearly, he will.
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For some people, life truly does come full circle. It doesn’t usually happen as quickly as it did for Michigan State University freshman Katlin Flannery.
Kaitlin got hooked on baking when she was 15 and watching Billy (of Billy’s Bakery) make cupcakes on The Martha Stewart Show.
“I just jumped in the kitchen and started baking (those cupcakes),” Kaitlin says. “I probably made them three times that week.” Four years later, her circle is complete as she bakes her very own rainbow cake with Martha herself. (click here to watch video)
Her blog, Whisk Kid, is less than a year old and already shows pure confectionary confidence. Kaitlin had inspiration from a young age, making pancakes with her dad without a recipe and topping them with dad’s own maple syrup. And despite a couple of (unintentionally) flaming results, Kaitlin wants to make baking a career after she graduates with a marketing degree.
We’re hoping she won’t abandon food photography once she has her own bakery. This girl knows her way around a Canon Rebel XTI, and we, at least, can’t stop looking.
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Foodie at 15 (Now 17)
At 15, our summer income was earmarked for things like bicycles, college tuition, and music. Not so Nick Normile. A passionate cook and author of the blog Foodie at Fifteen, Nick wanted to spend his hard-earned cash on dinner at Thomas Keller’s Per Se. He even hid out in the school bathroom to make reservations at this temple of culinary excellence.
When food – especially the food of Thomas Keller – is your passion, there’s only one course to follow, and Nick never strays from that course. He already has a few restaurant apprenticeships under his belt, and his blog has attracted the attention of food writer Michael Ruhlman. The author posted a comment on Foodie at Fifteen after Normile reviewed a Ruhlman book.
“I dumped water on my head to make sure I wasn’t dreaming,” Nick says.
He wasn’t. Imminent success seems quite likely. And really, how can the Food Network resist a name like Nick Normile?
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Lauren McMillan has always loved to bake. From a young age she valued her aunt’s “swoon-worthy” pies and the chocolate chip cookies that made her mom famous (among family and friends); so she joined them in the kitchen whenever she could.
But two years ago, her baking habits had to change. Diagnosed with celiac disease at 14, McMillan took to reading every gluten-free cookbook she could get her hands on. She also took to blogging.
“I wanted an outlet for cooking and creating, as well as discussing my health,” McMillan says. “As time has gone on, the food has become more and more important in both the blog and my life!”
Under Lauren’s tag line, “Let go of the gluten,” celiac disease suddenly feels manageable, creative, and, yep, tasty. Dare we say playful?
“When I first went gluten-free, we would buy just about any gluten-free cookbook we saw,” she says. “Those gave me a push and the knowledge that gluten-free would never mean deprived.
Lauren – and Celiac Teen – are proof positive of that.
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17 and Baking
People often say they find inspiration in unlikely places. Elissa Bernstein found it in the cookbook aisle at Costco. While shopping with her mom, the then-14-year-old was attracted by photos of black-forest and pineapple-upside-down cakes. But the simple sponge cake she made (perfectly) from that very book sealed the deal.
“The result looked just like the photograph in the book,” Elissa says. “That’s when I got hooked.”
Now, between school, an internship, a restaurant job and college preparations, Elissa still finds time – often hours a day – to maintain the blog.
And it’s stunning. Chrysanthemum cupcakes? Jaw dropping (and mouth watering). In February, “17 and Baking” won “The Best Blog Written by a Teen” at the 10th Annual Weblog (Bloggie) Awards.
As beautiful as her blog is, Elissa considers it “just a vehicle for my writing.” That’s where her ambitions lie; and if food can be involved, so much the better. Are you listening, Bon Appetit?
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Sophia Hunt doesn’t share Elissa Bernstein’s love of writing, but she loves blogging about her kitchen exploits. Baking is this newly minted teen’s passion – one she’s happy to share on Sophia’s Sweets.
“I’ve been baking on my own since I was about four,” says Hunt, who turned 13 this past weekend. “I ditched the mixes years ago.”
A Dorie Greenspan devotee, Hunt now satisfies her parents’ sweet cravings with blondies (mom) and cherry pie (dad). She even takes special requests.
“One of my dad's friends has a successful blog, and she posted a picture of a cake I baked for her husband's birthday,” Hunt remembers. “The number of readers multiplied overnight!”
Updated between babysitting jobs and voice lessons, the two-year-old Sophia’s Sweets reads like an afternoon in the kitchen with your BFF. It’s real. It’s realistic. And it’s refreshingly simple. If you want to bake delicious, unfussy treats and maybe learn a few kitchen skills (and have some fun), start here. You’ll be glad you did.
Do you have a favorite teen blogger we need to know about? We'd love to hear from you.