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  • Caitlyn White wowed the judges with her creations on a recent episode of “Chopped Junior.”
    Caitlyn White wowed the judges with her creations on a recent episode of “Chopped Junior.”
  • Caitlyn White wowed the judges with her creations on a recent episode of “Chopped Junior.”
    Caitlyn White wowed the judges with her creations on a recent episode of “Chopped Junior.”
  • Caitlyn White wowed the judges with her creations on a recent episode of “Chopped Junior.”
    Caitlyn White wowed the judges with her creations on a recent episode of “Chopped Junior.”

Arnold Resident Caitlyn White Wins Prize On “Chopped Junior”

Gracie Fairfax
Gracie Fairfax's picture
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May 3, 2017

For the past two years, 11-year-old St. John the Evangelist student and Arnold resident Caitlyn White has been the primary dinner cook in her house. In a recent “Chopped Junior” episode on the Food Network titled “Rescue Mission,” Caitlyn took home first place for her culinary creations.

A fun experience overall, the competition provided Caitlyn with a distraction from a family tragedy.

“I just recently lost my father to melanoma cancer, and cooking really helped me. My dad loved the food I cooked,” Caitlyn said during her “Chopped Junior” appearance. “I think he’s definitely with me here in this competition. … I want to win this competition for my dad but also for my mom because she’s so brave and strong and amazing.”

Before Caitlyn was invited on the show, her cousin showed her an application, which she helped Caitlyn fill out. After the initial application were rounds of phone and Skype interviews, followed by a video submission of her cooking at home. She sent her video in the summer of 2016, and then her mother, Cindi White, received a call from the Food Network. The Food Network transferred money into their account for the trip, and within three weeks of that phone call, Caitlyn and Cindi were in New York for three full days for the taping.

The pair expected to show up to a well-marked building, but they were surprised to find the show’s studios hidden away in a warehouse.

“It’s like up a secret elevator and through this door,” Caitlyn said. “The people who were taking me there had these walkie-talkies and they were like, ‘We’re going through the hallway.’ They don’t want anybody to see us, but they don’t want us to see any of the other celebrities walking through. We couldn’t cross paths.”

Her participation had to be kept secret until the White family was given an official airdate. They also had to send in photos for use on the show and had to receive approval from each person to use the photo on TV without revealing Caitlyn’s participation in “Chopped Junior.”

Upon first glance, the competitors seemed far more experienced than Caitlyn, but she didn’t let others’ credentials prevent her from putting her best food forward.

“I didn’t think when we first got there that she was going to win,” Cindi said. “And one of the reasons was when we showed up, one of the young men was like, ‘I’ve trained with this professional chef and here are my knives’… and Caitlyn’s like, ‘I cook in my kitchen … I think it’s more about creativity’ and she has a very even-keeled demeanor. I think that served her well.”

On the show, the young chefs are given 30 minutes and a basket with four mandatory ingredients with which they need to create an appetizer, entrée and dessert. There is also a pantry for the kids to source additional ingredients for their dishes.

Beginning with four contestants, one child is eliminated after each course.

Caitlyn’s courses consisted of an Italian wedding soup with wilted greens and bacon for the appetizer, a steak sandwich with bell peppers, marinara and beet leaf chips for the entrée, and a tropical cookie dough trifle with sugar cone crumble for dessert.

“It’s really well balanced and it’s kind of chunky and smoky and it’s just delicious,” said judge Amanda Freitag of Caitlyn’s Italian wedding soup on the episode.

After a whirlwind trip to New York for the taping, the experience still felt surreal to Caitlyn and Cindi, who continued to keep the competition a secret. “I was surprised because it didn’t seem like I was even on the show for real until it came on the TV,” Caitlyn said.

Cindi saw the show for the first time when it came on TV because parents are put into a room away from their kids during the taping and are shown only short video clips to assure them their children are taken care of.

A multitalented girl, Caitlyn displayed her Irish dancing skills on “Chopped Junior.” After learning of the $10,000 Caitlyn would gain for winning the competition, Cindi finally agreed to buy her daughter a new dress for her big Irish dance competition in December.

“Had she not done such a good job and won that money and worked really hard, I probably would have balked a lot more about buying a $1,000 dress for an 11-year-old,” Cindi said. “The rest we’ll probably save for college or school.”

Caitlyn may want to be a professional chef someday, but for now, she’s just enjoying being the star of one of her favorite shows and cooking purely for the love of it.

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