article by Tamara Henderson in The Gadsden Times

WILL SISKEY HAS A DECADE OF COOKING EXPERIENCE - AND HE'S 11

At 11 years old, most boys are playing baseball with the neighborhood youngsters or investing their free time in video games when school's out.

But there is one 11-year-old who used his school break to break into the cooking business.

Will Siskey, 11 going on celebrity, was stirring up things in the kitchen as a toddler.

"I started at 1 year old, decorating sugar cookies with my mom," he said.

Now in sixth grade at Evans Elementary in Albertville, Will has developed cooking skills that surpass some adults many times his age.

That early exposure to the kitchen developed into a serious interest, and his mother, Rebecca Rogers, saw that he had serious talent.

She enrolled him in cooking schools to help cultivate his natural gift. He really wanted to attend the cooking class hosted by popular "Food Network" star Paula Deen, but he discovered he didn't meet the age requirement.

Despite that obstacle, Will still wanted to visit Deen's restaurant in Savannah, Ga., the Lady & Sons. He also signed up to attend a week-long cooking class at the prestigious 700 Kitchen School.

During spring break, he and his mother traveled to Savannah for the historical sights and for their taste buds' pleasure.

On their second day in town, Will and his mother enjoyed a meal at Deen's famous restaurant.

After eating, they ran into someone who opened the door of opportunity for the youngster.
"At the autograph stand, Bobby Deen (Paula Deen's youngest son) was there, and I got to take a picture with him," Will said. "I started asking him questions, and I told him that I was taking cooking classes and he asked me, `Why aren't you taking my mom's cooking classes?'"

Will explained that the Web site about the classes stated a person had to be 16 to attend.

Bobby Deen seemed surprised at the news and asked Will, "Are you sure?" When the young man replied with certainty, Bobby Deen excused himself, stepped away and made a phone call.

For Will, waiting for that phone call to end was like watching a pot come to a boil. The anticipation was building like steam in a kettle, but all he could do was wait.

When that phone call ended, Bobby Deen walked over to the young man and his mother and said, "You're going to see my mom."

The cooking class had been booked completely for the year, and Will was well underage, but Bobby Deen was so impressed by the young man's knowledge and interest in cooking that he pulled some strings and got him on board for the cooking class scheduled that Friday.

"(Paula Deen) was just like she is on TV - nice and kind and really easy to get to know," Will said.

Will learned recipes for Velveeta cheese fudge, raspberry trifle cake and plenty of others.

Ever since that door was opened, many other opportunities have followed.

The attention surrounding his experiences in Savannah landed him a guest spot on "Today in Alabama." Montgomery's NBC affiliate, WSFA, invited him to come on the show and cook on-air.

Will prepared a key lime pie with a chocolate crust. The recipe, he said, received the most Internet hits of any recipe on WSFA's Web site.

The station has invited him to come back one day.Will also is working on a children's cookbook he hopes to have published next year.

"It's still in the works right now," he said.

The cookbook will contain all kinds of simple recipes but with a Southern, homestyle twist.

For Will, the most exciting news is that he is scheduled to be featured in the January issue of Paula Deen's magazine, "Cooking With Paula Deen." His mom cautions that, as with anything in the publishing industry, the date could change.

What else is next for this cooking sensation?

"I'd like to have my own cooking show and get my culinary degree," he said. "I also want to open up my own restaurant. I just want to do whatever God wants me to do next."

Apart from being a culinary prodigy, Will still is a regular kid.

"I'm into sports too," he said. "I play tennis and basketball and soccer - I like to run track a lot, and I'm in Boy Scouts, too."

This 11-year-old has a lot on his plate, so be on the lookout. One day, he'll be putting something tasty onto yours.

In the meantime, try some of his recipes, shared via e-mail by his mom.

Rogers writes:

"Will's favorite recipe is Key Lime Pie with Chocolate Crust and Lime Whipping Creme. It is very yummy. He created this recipe for me because I love key lime pie and, of course, who doesn't love chocolate?"

KEY LIME PIE
  • 1 chocolate pie crust
  • 2 cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 2 eggs
  • Zest of one lime

Mix sweetened condensed milk, lime juice, eggs and lime zest until well blended. Pour into pie shell and bake for 12 minutes at 350 degrees. Allow pie to cool and top with Lime Whipping Creme.

LIME WHIPPING CREME
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Zest of one lime

Beat whipping cream until soft peaks begin to form. Slowly add sugar a tablespoon at a time. Once cream begins to thicken, stir in vanilla and lime zest.

EGGS IN A BASKET
  • 4 eggs, beaten well
  • 1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash original seasoning
  • 2 leaves baby spinach, chopped
  • Chopped tomatoes, if desired
  • 30 mini phyllo dough shells
  • Shredded cheese

Combine eggs, seasoning, spinach and tomatoes. Scramble in a non-stick pan. Spoon egg mixture into phyllo shells, top with cheese and bake at 350 degrees just until cheese is melted.

"A very good starter recipe for very young cooks is a `Sweet and Salty Trail Mix' or `No Mess Smores,'" Rogers writes.

TRAIL MIX
  • 1 bag pretzel sticks
  • 1 bag miniature marshmallows
  • 1 box Rice Chex cereal
  • 1 box of your favorite sweetened cereal (such as Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch)
Combine all ingredients and enjoy.

Recipe may be halved for smaller quantities. Great for healthy, on-the-go snacks.

NO MESS SMORES
  • Graham crackers, broken into fourths
  • 2 Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls, cut into half, lengthwise
Place sliced cake roll onto graham cracker fourth and enjoy. You can even put this in the microwave for about 5 seconds for an ooey, gooey dessert.

 


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