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What’s cooking? Young chef mixes food, business
Jasmine Bell parlays culinary skill in career
Published Wednesday, July 18, 2018 10:10 am
by Jaraya Johnson | The Charlotte Post

Jasmine Bell, 14, parlayed her experience on” MasterChef Junior” into culinary adventures in the U.S. and Canada.

Jasmine Bell’s whisk goes far beyond reality television.

After finishing in the top five on “Top Chef Jr.” last year, Bell, 14, has been involved in many other endeavors. The East Mecklenburg High School freshman is enrolled in the school’s Culinary Pathway program, volunteers at local restaurants and meeting chefs in Charlotte who, ultimately, became mentors.

“Since the show, I’ve been cooking for family and volunteering at a restaurant here called Heirloom,” Bell said. “On the 24th of June, I did a dinner with a friend from the show. We ran a six-course menu there and because the chefs there are my mentors, they let me take over the restaurant for that day.”

Bell, an honor roll student in middle school, has also been more active on her YouTube channel, Jazz it Up with Jasmine Bell in hopes of gaining more experience and presence.

“Now, I’ve started my own cooking YouTube channel and I’ve been filming some videos just to broaden my horizons,” she said.

Long before Bell was comfortable broadcasting her talents online, there was once a time when kitchen tools were not her friend.

“When I started, I couldn’t turn on the stove. I didn’t know you had to press it down, then turn it,” she said. “I couldn’t boil water. There’s been a whole change. I’ve learned so much from my mentors, I’ve learned so much from the show.”

Bell’s love for cooking didn’t start on television, but a camp run by her mother, Sherritta.

“My mom had a summer camp at Phillip O. Berry” Academy,” the younger Bell said. “It had a club where we could do cooking and I became the leader in the class and I was able to help everyone cook whatever we were cooking that day … and I really liked that.

“Then I tried out for ‘MasterChef Junior’ and made it onto that. I was like, ‘this is really cool, I really like cooking, this is what I want to do.’ I took a lot of classes at Johnson & Wales [University], Williams Sonoma and I was like, ‘I really, really love this, I want to do this’ and ever since then it just jump started what I have become now.”

Said Sheritta: “She’s been in the kitchen with me since she was 4. She baked her first cake at 4. She was around it a lot with family and cooking with family on Thanksgiving and Christmas. When we had the camp, she would come home every night and she wanted to do something more.”  

After the camp experience, young Jasmine was exposed to more professional and exciting opportunities.

“She did a Chef’s Choice for kids, so we paid for her to do one of those and at that point she was exposed to a professional kitchen and it kind of opened her eyes to all the avenues, “ Sherritta Bell said.

As her dreams come to life, Bell has high hopes of opening restaurants around the country. Eventually, she wishes to turn her passion into a career.

“I want to move to L.A. and kind of live in the L.A. scene,” she said. “I’ve planned to move to L.A. for a while now. I want to either own my own restaurant or start a food magazine or food app with cooking videos and cooking advice, so people can feel connected with me and still have that cooking background to it.”

With family and friends in Charlotte and because of her interest in attending Johnson & Wales, Bell wants to stay in the area for a while before branching off.

“I have a lot of chef mentors here in Charlotte,” she said. “This has always been in my head that maybe I would want to have a restaurant here because I have, so many people that support me here and they are always talking about how they can’t wait until I open a restaurant. So, when I open up restaurants, I’m probably going to open up one here because I really do love Charlotte.”

Bell’s goal is to earn a scholarship to Johnson & Wales and travel internationally through a program offered at the school.

“I am going to work hard in high school so I can get a scholarship to Johnson & Wales,” she said. “Then, travel around the world with their travel abroad program.”

Bell also has an entrepreneurial streak as owner of Kirkgate Kitchen, an online retail space for baked goods and custom-made aprons as well as culinary blogs and recipes.

“It started out as the name of my street and my dad was like, ‘yeah, everything comes out of Kirkgate kitchen,’ so that’s kind of where the name started,” she said. “The best thing about the business is that you get to see people’s faces with the finished product and they’re like, ‘oh my God, this is so amazing, this is so delicious.’ That’s always the best part about it so it’s really fun. I am just really glad that I started it.”

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