If your 4-year-old seems to have a sophisticated palate – say, a love of lobster and lamb – you may have a budding chef on your hands.
That’s how it started for Jeremy Salamon, a senior in West Boca Raton High School’s four-year Culinary Academy. He started taking cooking classes when he was 9. Now 17, Jeremy works at a restaurant, hosts a website about cooking, spends summers at a North Carolina cooking school, and has emceed events at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival with Food Network stars.
When we hear about kids like this – so focused and interested, we wonder: How did it happen?
In Jeremy’s case, his early interest in cooking goes back, of course, to his mother’s kitchen, where he watched her and his grandmothers prepare the family meals. He started helping with the little things.
“When I was 9, I found my calling,” he said. His parents, who believe in following your dreams, found a cooking class for kids. It was in Wellington, but they signed him up anyway.
“He was always really, really creative,” his father, Jeff, said, adding that the family traveled a lot and exposed their two sons – Jeremy’s brother is 20 – to new things. “That’s where it came from.”
When he was 13, Jeremy’s parents enrolled him in the C’est si Bon cooking school in North Carolina. Teens in the summer program visit organic farms, chocolate makers, artisan cheese makers, learn how to style food and more. Jeremy has since gone back, working as an intern.
This summer, he also worked at Brule Bistro in Delray Beach as a prep cook and a line cook, calling Chef Suzanne Perrotto is “an amazing teacher.” He recently hosted a cooking event for families at Whole Foods Market in Boca.
He has done internships at other restaurants and country clubs, peeling potatoes, scooping ice cream and other duties. And still, he sticks with it.
Jeremy attended the Donna Klein Jewish Academy, then North Broward Preparatory School in Coconut Creek before enrolling in the Culinary Academy at West Boca High.
The program preps students for a food industry career – either a job right after high school, or enrollment in a culinary school.
“I owe a lot of my foundation knowledge to them,” Jeremy says of the school, which covered lessons like sanitation and food history.
Now, his idea of a fun weekend is to invite a dozen friends over for a dinner party in which they all help cook. His mother, Robin, is OK with that, Jeremy says, as long as he cleans up afterward.
Jeremy favors comfort food, but he likes to spice it up a bit. In one of the “cookisodes” on his website, JeremyCooks.com, he is making a mozzarella and basil grilled cheese sandwich. He likes blue cheese on his burgers.
After graduating high school, he hopes to attend the Culinary Institute of America in New York. He would like to study abroad at some point.
Jeremy has also discovered a love for writing about food – and maybe he’ll pursue that as a career.
He is moved, he says, by cooking as a way to communicate, food’s “power to bring people together.”
Visit his website, JeremyCooks.com, and like his Facebook page.
Follow him on Twitter @JeremyCooks.
- CHARLENE PACENTI