INTERVIEW by JOE BASILE |PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY of JEREMYCOOKS.com
When most teenagers are eating at McDonalds, 17-year-old Chef Jeremy Salamon is diligently keeping his kitchen clean and preparing a well-planned-out recipe at home. With his website, Jeremy Cooks, he shares his experiences and knowledge as a Chef-in-Training with his readers. From video interviews with some of the world’s most famous chefs to his own trademarked instructional “Cookisode” videos, his passion for cooking and culinary culture is inspiring to chefs and cooks of all ages.
What’s the first meal you remember having?
It was in Maine, I remember having mussels for the very first time. It was at this really great seafood restaurant; I was seven years old and I ordered mussels, I don’t know why, but I just did. I guess my inner foodie was calling out and it changed a lot of things for me. One bowl of mussels and from then on out I started eating clams, lobster, different sea creatures, octopus; it scared my parents a little bit.
When did you first realize you wanted to be chef?
It’s weird to say it, but… at nine years old when I was in a car ride home. I just said to my parents, “I want to be a chef” and they were like, “okay.” From there I went home, I watched the Food Channel, started collecting cookbooks, started to learn a lot of techniques. That’s when it really started.
Why is cooking important to you?
It’s a life skill. At least I believe it’s a life skill. People need to know how to cook to provide for themselves, their family, their loved ones, and it’s a way of communicating and bringing people together. Food is a language and we all sit at the table and talk over great food and have great conversation.
Do you have a specialty? What do you like to cook?
I do not have a specialty because it’s always changing. I’m continuously learning and that’s part of Jeremy Cooks: that I’m on my journey to becoming a chef. So I’m always finding out about different cuisines and techniques. But I’m very much into Southern and French foods. I definitely love the comfort of southern meals and I appreciate the classical techniques French cuisine has to offer.
Growing up is usually a time to indulge in junk food; do you ever get harassed by your peers for eating well?
I’m not a kid that drinks soda, so when I go out and order soda, my parents have to stop what they’re doing and take a photo of it. They’re actually keeping a scrapbook when I take little pieces of junk food. Oreos are my weakness. My friends definitely get a little frustrated with me when I won’t cooperate and go to McDonald’s with them. Not the norm for a seventeen-year-old.
There are a lot of kids your age who are overweight in our country. Any ideas on how to create change among your peers?
I think kids need to be educated about the choices that they make and I don’t believe that’s necessarily changing the lunch menu at school. Kids need to be educated as to what’s on their plate because if they don’t know what they’re eating they’re most likely not going to eat it. If there’s a class – more than home economics – that teaches them about food, the food pyramid, different ways to cook things, then they might be open to eating new and healthy foods at school.
Any cooking dos or don’ts?
Definitely keep organized and clean in the kitchen. I can’t stress that enough. I’ve learned that’s one of the most important things to do in the kitchen. Clean as you go. The end of the day you won’t have too many dishes to clean up. Definitely read your recipe ahead of time.
Never experiment when you have a guest over (do that on your own time). Know how to handle a knife properly/safely. Know how to roast a chicken — it’s the sign of a good cook and chef. Also, enjoy your food. Savor the flavor.
What’s coming up for you?
I have one more year of school, I’m a senior this year and then afterwards I plan on attending culinary school, hopefully in New York.
We’re always trying to think of new projects, new posts to write, and this year we’re doing some Whole Foods classes. They’re called Jeremy’s Kitchen-to-Table Experience. We’re holding it at the Boca Raton’s Whole Foods. We go around the store and shop for the ingredients and then we come back to the kitchen, we cook the meal together, and then we sit down and we talk about the meal that we created. Kind of bringing back that family table theme.
In a way my dad is like my business partner; it’s definitely a collaboration. He helps run the website and manage the different activities we do. So we came up with the idea together.
Any other projects?
I’m also working on a book. So that’s really exciting and kind of nerve racking because I’m not a professional writer. It’s pretty much a memoir through the eyes of a teen cook. It’s partially a cookbook. So there are chapters going through different ages, and humorous stories about different people that I’ve encountered and experiences in the kitchen and at the end of each chapter there’s a few recipes. So it’s not the average cookbook that’s loaded with 250 recipes. It’s definitely going to be different.
If you didn’t cook what would you be doing?
I would be doing something in the food world. I love to eat too much to not be surrounded by food for the rest of my life. I’d maybe do some food writing, maybe be a food critic, writing a column for different food websites or magazines, food author, something in the writing field.
If you were a fruit or vegetable what would you be and why?
That is a really good question. I’ve never been asked that before. I would definitely say cauliflower.
Most people don’t think of cauliflowers. It’s definitely the unexpected. I like to think of myself as doing the unexpected. Cauliflower just rocks, I think it’s awesome. My grandmother is Hungarian and she makes fried cauliflower and it’s absolutely crazy good. I grew up on it, so maybe that’s why I want to be a cauliflower… that’s deep-fried.