Jasmine “Jazzy” Bell is writing a recipe for her success — and she’s only 13. Bell, a student at Piedmont IB Middle, aspires to become a culinary and pastry chef. Like her food, her plan is looking good. She has landed a spot on the competition series MasterChef Junior, which premiered Feb. 9 on the Fox television network.
Bell became interested in cooking a couple of years ago when she attended a summer Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) camp at Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology. The camp offered math, reading, science and afternoon clubs, including a culinary one. She attended the culinary classes and found her niche.
“I’d make cupcakes at home — red velvet is my specialty — so I was interested in seeing what else I could learn,” she said. “I loved it. I was making lemon bars and wontons from scratch. I knew this is what I wanted to be doing all the time.”
Bell dreams big but attends to the details. She is incorporating her fashion sense and sewing skills in her culinary world by making specialty aprons. Her latest piece was made out of denim with basketball designs.
“When I made my first apron, I didn’t know how to sew so I used the glue gun,” she said. “It wasn’t bad but my mom and grandmother decided they better teach me how to hand sew. Now, I’m taking classes to get better.”
Bell pursues cooking with laser focus and an infectious vigor. Her future plans include owning restaurants and food trucks. She is learning the basics of business through a community youth entrepreneurship program.
“I’m trying to build my brand now, so it’s less work I’ll have to do later,” she said.
In a recent school project, Bell and her classmates were asked to choose a career and present it to each other. She chose culinary arts and turned an ordinary stand into a three-tiered cupcake kiosk by decorating it with glitter, colored construction paper and adding her signature cupcakes. Bell had to answer questions related to the assignment, so she researched various careers students could have in the field.
“My friends liked the cupcakes a lot,” she said. “They are always asking me to make different things. I’m getting more creative with my food and I’m starting to try a lot of new things.”
Bell credits her mentor chefs, Heirloom restaurant owner Clark Barlowe and Catering by Cordre’ owner Manuel Cordray, for expanding her knowledge and palate. She meets with them at least twice a month.
“Before I started cooking, I didn’t want to eat anything weird. Now, I want to try everything,” she said. “One of my favorite dishes to cook and eat is a salmon croquette with fingerling potato hash, a white-wine tomato sauce, a runny egg topped with a sprinkle of turkey bacon.”
High school and college are in Bell’s plans, too. She wants to attend East Mecklenburg High because of the school’s culinary program. She plans to attend Johnson & Wales University or the Culinary Institute of America to major in culinary management and minor in pastry arts.
Bell is eager to keep seeking opportunities that will help her reach her goals. MasterChef Junior is not the first competition she has entered, but it is the most prominent one thus far.
After a nationwide search, 40 of the best junior home cooks between the ages of eight and 13 were chosen for a culinary battle in the MasterChef Junior kitchen in front of chefs Gordon Ramsay and Christina Tosi. Only 20 will move forward in the competition, and the winner will take home a trophy and $1,000.
“I couldn’t do any of this without the support of my parents. My school has also rallied around me and is cheering me on,” Bell said. “My goal is to become a better chef and to inspire other people.”