And then! I came across Nick N.'s blog: "Foodie at 15 (Now 16)." At first glance, it seems like a typical recipe/lifestyle blog. But, you start to notice some peculiarities: comfort food after a midterm exam, musings on whether his cooking will get the attention of a girl he likes, copious references to "parents," and that's when you realize (or you realize when you read the title of the blog), this kid is sixteen! Sixteen! When I was 16, my cooking skills started with spaghetti and ended with plain ham and cheese sandwiches. My big, showy meal was fried chicken, the only thing I made better than my mom and only because I used half a stick of butter.
That a 16 year old can make a blog not entirely focused on Gossip Girl or Twilight would be accomplishment enough (zing!),* but his recipes are actually very good! Well thought out, well described, adapted when needed, patient experimentation--he is like your nerdy best friend who says about their science project, "Well, I guess I've been working on this for about a year now, and then the people at NASA got involved and, long story short, I'm going to be on the cover of TIME."
He tends to skew more towards the gourmet--fine-cooked meals with a blend of high-quality ingredients the likes of which I can only briefly glimpse as I pass through the giant Whole Foods in Columbus Circle. And he draws on a surprising breadth of knowledge about food, preparation, substance, and all the knit-picky little things about which I know nothing and which ultimately separate the good chefs from the bad (guess where that puts me...). He has that kind of earnest excitement about food (duck eggs! pancakes! sweetbreads with caramelized endive!) that would be pretentious if it wasn't so charming (like when he buys himself a fancy dinner at Per Se, describes in eloquent detail each and every part of his 20-course--no joke--meal, meets the chef and kitchen staff, and freaks out when he's presented with a book of recipes that is a "50 DOLLAR COOKBOOK!" You just want to give the kid a noogie).
What's also nice about the blog is getting to reimagine the polished top chefs of TV and fancy restaurants as tall and gawky teenagers experimenting in their mom and dad's kitchens, mad-scientist style. Nick seems already well on his way to becoming a successful chef. He's nabbed an apprenticeship at Lacroix in Philly while most teenagers are earning money working as camp counselors.** My guess is he's headed to the CIA (the other CIA) and/or stardom, just like that little mouse in Ratatouille, but I like the idea of imagining him poised over a dorm room hot plate in a paper hat and crisp chef's coat, his roommates crawling out of bed to wolf down stale PB&Js as he gently simmers and stirs.
Image of his food, not him, mostly because I feel weird putting a picture of a 16-year-old boy on my blog. The caption says "Failed duck prosciutto and more" but it looks pretty awesome to me. Also like pancakes.
*Full disclosure: At one point in my life (read: several years), I owned and operated a Newsies fan site. This blog a step up?
** Like me. "Character building."