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Thoughts on a cooking prodigy

In the most recent episode of Chopped, one of the contestants was a 16 year old who was attending the Children's Professional School in New York City (that I've mostly heard of in relation to young people who are actors, musicians, and athletes) and labeled as a cooking prodigy.

Given the short time on Chopped, they didn't really explain what it meant for him to be a cooking prodigy. Did he attend culinary school at 13? Is he working in professional kitchens or as a private chef?

To me, the term prodigy implies that a young person is able to do something at a very high level typically only achieved by older adults. And yet with a chef, I'm not sure what that would mean. Most "top chefs" that we hear of, have their own restaurant at some point. But being a business owner/manager doesn't imply any cooking skills. Not to mention the historical tradition of someone working their way up through a kitchen.

However, I'm also not denying that there is clearly a difference between a lovely home cook and a quality professional kitchen. And a difference between a lovely quality professional kitchen and a truly amazing professional kitchen.

So, Chowhounds - what are your thoughts on a prodigy chef? Is it possible? Is this kid just some unique mix of skill and parents who will advocate for him to take this path? If there is such a "thing" as a prodigy chef, what would you expect to see? Thoughts?

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  1. Being a good cook is different than being a Chef.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Maximilien

      For the purpose of this thread, I'm mixing them to imply that this kid has labeled himself as a professional cook. And 'prodigy chef' went off the tongue better than 'prodigy professional cook'.

    2. why would someone with a supportive and nurturing family be any less a prodigy as a chef than as a pianist or a painter, or a computer programmer.

      i take it to mean that the child in question has an excelent sense of how to prepare food, how flavors combine, the importance of texture, mouth feel, color, etc. all the things that make a great chef, but because of the individual traits of this child, seem to come naturally to her/him.

      1 Reply
      1. re: KaimukiMan

        I agree -- I'd be skeptical, because I'm usually skeptical of the fabricated drama found on reality shows, but maybe he is.

        If Beethoven was playing concerts at 7, publishing compositions at 13, and Mozart was composing at 5 and playing as a regular court musician by 17, I really don't see why it isn't possible that someone could be considered a chef at 16.

      2. http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-...

        Several news articles ran, this is one I was able to grab quickly.

          1. re: HillJ

            with a resume like that, I don't think 'chef' is being used lightly or incorrectly.

            1. re: sunshine842

              Warms my heart to learn that mentorship has not died and that a young chef can be taken seriously by the more accomplished. Ego leanings aside, Flynn has the ambition to grab serious attention. Color me impressed.

              1. re: HillJ

                looks like this is also being driven by a *very* savvy marketer -- all fuzzy and feel-good, but very, very goal-oriented.

                1. re: sunshine842

                  Can't have one without the other in this day and age.

                  1. re: HillJ

                    once in a while it's still around -- but more and more frequently you're right, sadly.

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      Never truer of the generation coming up and right behind who know no other way of communicating to their market or sharing their appealing talents..a la YouTube.

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