Remmi Smith, a 15-year-old from Tulsa, OK, loves to cook healthy foods. Her website, Cook Time with Remmi, includes how-to videos, recipes, and even some info for parents. In her spare time (ha!), Remmi even published a cookbook, called Global Cooking for Kids. We asked this can-do ninth grader all about her healthy recipes and her life as a Kid Who Pops, and she fed us some answers!
batteryPOP: How did you first get interested in healthy cooking?
Remmi: I’ve always been interested in food, so when I started cooking, it was [a] new and exciting experience for me. At first, healthy cooking wasn’t the main priority—that was second to encouraging kids to cook. Once I learned more about the obesity rates in the U.S., I began to focus on healthy and economically friendly dishes.
batteryPOP: How much were you allowed to do on your own in the kitchen at first? And now?
Remmi: I started washing vegetables and fruits, and mixing things at the age of four, then from around five to eight years old I began learning different chopping techniques, and working with hot appliances. Now, have almost free roam of my kitchen at home, but only just recently has my mom trusted me to be able to carry a hot pot of cooked pasta to the sink to be strained. Over the years I have been working on being safer and more efficient. I’ve attempted to be cleaner; however, I’m still pretty messy.
batteryPOP: How do you come up with your recipes?
Remmi: I enjoy watching the Food Network, especially competition shows like Cutthroat Kitchen and Iron Chef: America, looking at recipes in food magazines, and looking at dishes on the Internet. I like to watch those shows and read the recipes as inspiration for different uses of foods that I find incredible. Two of the most important things I consider when I create a recipe are kid-friendliness and health value.
batteryPOP: Have you had any recipes that were a total fail?
Remmi: Most definitely. One of the best parts of cooking is experimenting because you can always try a bunch of crazy mixtures and sometimes you get one that might actually taste good. The absolute fails help me to create recipes in the future.
batteryPOP: What has been your most successful recipe, and why?
Remmi: I have two. First, I have this super easy strawberry-blueberry salad. My mom and I were in the store and bought ingredients that traditionally worked well in a salad: cucumber, onion, and parsley. But then we combined different ingredients that I liked and knew were some of kids’ favorites: strawberries and blueberries. I think it tastes best with my Italian salad dressing [wink wink]. My signature dish is angel hair pasta with tomato pancetta sauce. Before I created this dish, I really didn’t have much experience with pancetta, which is an Italian, bacon-like meat. Now I use it so much that I think my sisters get sick of it.
batteryPOP: What's your favorite thing to cook in your downtime?
Remmi: I like to see what’s in my fridge and make a fruit salad, or veggie salad—or a mix of both—depending on what I see. Also, I really like to try pasta dishes, or make some classic favorites like fettuccini alfredo and homemade mac ’n cheese.
batteryPOP: Can you think of a time when you were sure something you had prepared wouldn’t taste good, but then it was delicious?
Remmi: Quite frankly, I don't even know how many dishes [I’ve made where] this has happened to me. I believe that one I thought was quite quirky—but ended up one of the best—was my gazpacho salad. It's a salad with fruits and vegetables, but the real kicker is that it has grapes in it, Along with bell peppers and onions. The natural sweetness of the grapes complements all the flavors and textures of the rest of the ingredients.
batteryPOP: What else do you love about spending so much time cooking?
Remmi: I really love to learn about the food I make. I love fun facts about food, food origins, and food history. Also, I love to see what kinds of cooking utensils are out there. Like an avocado cutter that looks like a potato masher or a garlic [press] that looks like a mini car—those interest me.
batteryPOP: What's the hardest thing about cooking?
Remmi: I'd say the hardest thing about cooking wouldn't be making the food taste good, but presenting it in an appealing way. Presentation is a huge part of cooking and eating and, really, food in general. We eat with our eyes, meaning we eat what looks good before we even put something in our mouths. So, as a cook, I have the obligation to make it look delicious as it tastes.
batteryPOP: How do you balance school with Cook Time with Remmi and other projects?
Remmi: In my last school, my mom and I met with my teachers and principal because that's when I started to travel a lot more and I was able to get my make-up work before I left. I made it up while I was out of town. I do about the same thing, now, in high school. I always try my best and my mom says as long as my grades are consistently doing well then I am in the clear.
batteryPOP: What's something about you that would surprise our readers?
Remmi: I used to have six toes on each foot and six fingers on each hand when I was a baby.
batteryPOP: Do you have any unusual or hidden talents?
Remmi: I'd like to say I'm a pretty good dancer, but most everyone seems to disagree—sometimes I disagree, too!
batteryPOP: What are some tips you can share with other kids?
Remmi: Be crazy and creative. Experiment in your kitchen. Try and mix your favorite foods. Even if they're Chex cereal and blueberries, just try something new! Don't be afraid of failure when you do something new—it helps you learn what works and what doesn't. Try to think of healthier substitutes for your favorite foods. Veggies and fruits are your friends. Remember to always have fun!
Thank you so much to Remmi for answering our questions!
Written by Rachel Bozek