SABOR: NOLA-Born Chef Kid Eliana de Las Casas Transforms Ingredients, Creates Amazing Dishes
"SABOR" is a food & wine and lifestyle series that savors Latinos' zest for life and passion for home and family.
Banana ice cream, mini chicken potpie and spinach artichoke dip are just examples of the many delectable recipes that the famous Kid Chef Eliana de Las Casas has tucked up the sleeve of her chef coat.
The kid is no stranger to cooking, creative dishes, or adventurous recipes. Since the tender age of four, Kid Chef Eliana took to the kitchen, inspired by her grandparent's Cajun, Filipino, Cuban and Honduran heritage. The 15-year-old NOLA celebrity chef, cookbook author and radio show host published her first cookbook, "Eliana Cooks! Recipes for Creative Kids," when she was just 10 years old. Her second and third books, "Kids Cook: Louisiana" and "Kids Cook: Fresh & Fit" were published in the spring of 2013 and 2014, respectively.
When Latin Post caught up with Eliana, she had just finished up a food demonstration at the French Market in New Orleans. She'd been working with and transforming fresh ingredients, such as watermelon, tomatos, fresh mozzarella, thyme and lemon basil, educating the public on how to create splendid dishes with use of natural ingredients.
"Whenever I do the demos there, I shop the farmers market beforehand and then invent a recipe on the spot. Although, I pretty much do that at home, too," said Kid Chef Eliana. "I just look around and see what we have. I see what's in the garden, and I just come up with a recipe. Sometimes, it'll be something that I eat at a restaurant or I see in a magazine, and I think, 'Oh, I want to create something like that. ... It's really fun.'
Mealtime at home is often a festive event. Her diverse family gathers, they cook as a family, and they turn every dinner or gathering into an international celebration. According to the chef, they have all kinds of dishes at the table, making it fun to sit down and have a meal.
"I love Asian flavors, and different flavors like a Latin or Cajun. I also love making tacos, that's my favorite food in the entire world because you can do so many different things with them, and I like to make my tortillas by hand," she stated. "I also like gourmet and comfort food. I'll like to do three-course meal, but I like to do single pot family dinners, and just have everything on the table."
Eliana's career has acquainted her with multiple celebrities, networks and shows, and allowed for the development of the global weekly radio show called "Cool Kids Cook" on the VoiceAmerica Kids network. Her radio show has granted her access to dozens of notable guests.
"With my radio show, I get to interview people from all aspects of the culinary industry. I interview cookbook authors, food bloggers, chefs, and people from cooking channels, all different kinds of people, and I get to hear the 'behind the scenes' approach to how everything works. I get to learn more about them and what they do, which is cool," the young chef told Latin Post. "I recently had my fourth anniversary this past July. I got to speak with a selmelier, Mark Bitterman, and he is a salt expert. We talked about all different kinds of salts, and they're all crazy delicious. It's really cool to hear about all these different kinds of salt, a lot people might not even know that there are different kinds of salt and different families of salt. I also like to give recipes and facts on my show. Everything I've been doing, I like to keep it fun and educational at the same time."
Chef Eliana, who admitted that she has 15 different types of salt, insisted that she didn't absolutely hate any food -- until she remembered durian, which is a fruit. Naturally an adventurous eater, she'll try anything that's set in front her; such was the case when she was in Chicago's Chinatown, and she had an opportunity to try durian in bubble tea. In her words, "Oh my god, it was gross. I could not drink it. I had to throw it away. I was trying to drink it, but it tasted like medicine mixed with dirty gym socks ... and it smelled. I just couldn't do it."
When Eliana isn't trying new foods or doing food demonstrations, she's attending conferences volunteering, educating, reading, cooking with family, interning and attending school at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA).
"Everything I do is really centered around food. But, I also love reading books and listening to music. I'm always obsessed with reading; my 'to read' is list a million miles long. I always have a book with me. Also, I attend NOCCA, it's an art conservatory and a high school. I do academics in the morning, and in the afternoon, I go to culinary arts. I'm about to be a sophomore and a level two in culinary arts. We're doing international cuisine this year, and it's pretty amazing. Now that I go to NOCCA, I have all of these other peers that love cooking as much as I do and we can actually have conversations about food and they totally understand what I'm talking about."
The kid chef reminded fans if they're eager and they have passion, they must work to achieve their dream. It's important to not only find something that you love, but to work for it and find a mentor. She added, "I have lots of chef mentors. Whenever I have questions or anything like that, I can just go to them. Also, find others who are interested in the same things as you."
Try Kid Chef Eliana's "Classic Cobb Salad" at home! It's delicious:
1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped
1/4 c. Blue cheese, crumbled
1 c. cooked bacon, crumbled
1 c. hard-cooked eggs, cubed
2 medium tomatoes, cubed
1 cooked, boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
1 avocado, cubed
On a platter, spread lettuce evenly. Arrange vertical rows of each ingredient across the top of the lettuce. Top with your favorite dressing. You can store this in the refrigerator covered for up to three days.