A journey that originally began with a cooking video recorded on an iPad and uploaded to YouTube for Grandma to see has surprised and taken 10-year-old chef Amber Kelley to places most of us only imagine. Places like the seat next to First Lady Michelle Obama at the 2013 Kids’ "State Dinner" at the White House where, Amber says, "everything was so fancy" (her recipe entry in the nationwide Healthy Lunchtime Challenge was selected as the winner for Washington State, earning her that seat) and surprises such as a personal video message from her chef hero, Jaime Oliver. Then there’s her "Inspirational Kids" Today Show appearance as well. "[Kathie Lee and Hoda] were hilarious; I was laughing the entire time," Amber recalls.
There's no doubt Amber's message is gaining reach and what she wants to make sure kids know is simple: Being healthy is COOL! "When you’re healthy, it makes you stronger and smarter and it makes you feel good, and everybody wants to be strong and smart and feel good," she says. Growing up in a family that prioritizes a healthy lifestyle has ingrained Amber with an understanding of what it means to be healthy and a big part of health lies in the food we eat.
Healthy eating begins with organic ingredients, "because obviously you don't want to be eating chemicals," says Amber. "We always buy organic, or we attempt to; if they have it we get it. We'll get local food. We grow a lot of our vegetables." Of all the "chemical-free" options out there, the home garden is her favorite: "It's fun, too, because we'll just go out there for lunch and we'll, like, eat right off of the bushes, which is totally cool because you know there are no chemicals on the stuff you grow."
In the Cook with Amber videos on her website, cookwithamber.com, Amber shows kids how they can transform healthy ingredients into healthy meals. "I want kids to know it’s easy to cook healthy foods and that it's yummy and that it's fun." Her favorite recipes include the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge-winning Nummy No-Noodle Lasagna (the twist? Zucchini replaces the noodles!), and P.B.J.A., a peanut butter, jelly and apple snack that is both delectable and adorable. By following her example, kids gain confidence in their cooking skills: Afraid of making a mistake? Amber once used 13 cups of flour instead of 1/3 of a cup in a recipe. Mistakes happen, but her advice to those who want to become kid-chefs themselves is "learn from your mistakes...practice and have fun."
While she doesn't know what the future holds, Amber knows she wants to keep making more episodes of Cook with Amber for her growing audience, saying "I seriously can’t believe it; I'm so honored and I'm so happy so many people think being healthy is cool."