While most kids can prepare only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, 12-year-old Haley Mattes of Evansville won the Food Network’s “Chopped Junior” TV show, and the $10,000 prize, by cooking chickpea-crusted camel hamburger, seared filet mignon with watercress salad, and cookie dough vanilla bean ice cream with chocolate cake.
Haley had to come up with the recipes on the spot while filming for the show. She couldn’t bring any of her own recipes and had to prepare an appetizer, entree and dessert for the judges with provided ingredients and within a tight time constraint.
She reminded herself to focus on cooking and doing what she normally does. She was surprisingly more nervous to watch the episode with her friends and family when it aired on TV in late April, she said.
When Haley originally found out that she would get to be on the Food Network, she was speechless and shocked.
“It took me 10 minutes to get my breath back,” she said.
Haley’s mother, Amy Sellers, said she is so proud of her daughter for taking iniative and achieving her goals. She said Haley needed minimal help — just shopping for ingredients and shooting videos to submit to Food Network.
“We are still amazed at all that she has made happen,” Sellers said.
At a young age, Haley loved baking simple desserts, like brownies and cookies, with her mom. But at the age of 9, Haley started watching the Food Network and learned advanced techniques for more complicated recipes.
For other cooks, Haley suggests not repeating a recipe until you’ve tried something new.
“It’s just a lot more fun to try different things,” Haley said.
Before creating her own signature recipes, Haley spent six months studying a variety of different recipes before adding her own flavors and meats.
Haley’s grandfather is a retired lineman from Daviess-Martin County REMC, and her step-grandmother, Janice Sellers, works at the co-op as a senior billing representative.