Kankakee boy a chef-in-the-making

KANKAKEE – Ethan Gentry enjoys baking, especially when he can use his family’s old-fashioned cherry pie recipes.

He also likes making omelets and crepes. He’s willing to peel real potatoes for his mashed potatoes. And he even makes his own bread and butter.

But he doesn’t own a chef’s hat. He doesn’t even have his own mixer. He’s looking forward to the day when he does, but he’s just 11 years old. Culinary school is well down the road for this little Kankakee kitchen star.

“I collect basketball cards and I’m on a swim team. I’m not always cooking,” he said. “But I would like to be an executive chef some day. I say ‘executive,’ because I want to do everything – bake and cook all kinds of things.”

This passion was kindled by cooking with his grandmother, when Ethan was 4 or 5. And it’s fitting that he pays tribute to his mentors with what he calls his “Double Grandma Cherry Pie.” The crust recipe comes from his great-grandmother on one side of the family, the filling from his grandmother on the other. And it’s a fancy lattice top crust.

“It didn’t come from me,” said his mother, Karen. “I cook carry-out.”

Ethan’s father, Tim, on the other hand, is pretty good in the kitchen. But he has one problem with Ethan’s culinary style.

“He doesn’t like my messes,” the future sixth-grader said, noting that he has tried to explain the French concept of “mise en place.” It’s a style that involves having all of the ingredients for a dish measured out and ready before the process begins. But, in Tim’s ear, the French expression sounds like “mess in place” and he doesn’t think his son needs any encouragement to be sloppy around the stove.

Ethan’s brother Quentin, 13, doesn’t share Ethan’s passion, but the family enjoys the products of his labors.

“But we don’t eat a lot of pies and things that I make,” he said. “Sometimes I make them just to take to my swimming coach, and I shared pound cake and bread with teachers at school.”

Ethan’s kitchen habits are already changing his life. Gifts tend to be cooking-related: He’s received a special knife his grandfather made for him and a springform pan for baking cheesecakes, so far. His favorite TV show: “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.” Host and chef Guy Fieri is his favorite TV character.

“My plans? Well, right now I would hope that my cooking experience helps me at culinary school and maybe someday I’d like to be on one of those cooking [contest] shows,” he explained.

Of course, there are downsides to his interest in cooking. There was the grease fire that broke out during the indoor preparation of bratwurst. And there was the time he decided he would try a lobster at “market price” at a local restaurant.

More often, though, he has successes.

“I’m looking forward to getting some fresh pumpkin this fall and trying some dishes with real pumpkin, not out of a can,” he said, as his mother sat next to him and smiled.

“And I’d like to try a flambe [igniting a dish, usually with alcohol],” he added, as his mother’s eyebrows went up.

Also on the horizon: The Chef’s Challenge cooking contest at the Kankakee Farmers’ Market.

“My dad competed in that, and he didn’t win,” Ethan said. “But maybe I’d have a better shot as, you know, a kid.”


Source: The (Kankakee) Daily Journal,


Information from: The Daily Journal,

This is an Illinois Spotlight story shared by The (Kankakee) Daily Journal.

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