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Charlotte's Disney Dreamer wants to empower more girls of color
Jasmine Bell pursues culinary goals at academy
Published Sunday, March 24, 2019 8:46 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

East Mecklenburg High School freshman Jasmine Bell takes a selfie with Mickey Mouse at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Bell is a participant in the Disney Dreamers Academy, which brings together 100 students from across the U.S. for mentoring and professional networking.

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ORLANDO, Florida—Jasmine Bell wants to inspire little girls of color.

The East Mecklenburg High School freshman is honing those skills at the 12th annual Disney Dreamers Academy at Walt Disney World.

“My next dream is that I have my own cooking show, because I want to inspire other little girls like me,” said Bell, one of 100 students selected from across the nation to participate in DDA. “They can do anything they want to. Even if it is a male-dominated industry, I want to be the best chef I can be, and I will be that no matter if I am a female, and if I am a woman of color.”

DDA provides deep dives where students explore indicated fields of interest. Bell is studying under Chef Jeff Henderson, known as Chef Jeff, a guest speaker and mentor.

“One thing about the culinary industry, especially what I tell young people, it is a very tough business,” Henderson said. “It is very male-driven. My students here today, they are young. They are female, and I always let them know that you’ve got to be a little bit tougher, a little bit stronger, work a little bit faster, and a little bit smarter than their male counterparts in the kitchen, but it can be done, and being African-American is definitely a bigger challenge, being female, working in the kitchens as well, but it can be done.”

At 15, Bell has already competed on national television, finishing in the top five of “Top Chef Junior” in 2017, and appeared on “MasterChef Junior.” She dreams of opening a restaurant in Los Angeles and has already picked a name: Brunch at Jasmine’s.

“Talk about dreams,” Henderson said. “[She is] a huge dreamer who wants to one day have her own cooking show. Today she is going to work with the Disney chefs and myself in the kitchen, preparing some deserts for about 1,000 people today.

“We’re going to talk about certain skillsets in order to become a chef. “We’re about to have a big turn-up here today at the 2019 Dreamers Academy.”

Henderson emphasized exploring different opportunities in the kitchen beyond cooking.

“It’s not just about being a great cook,” Chef Jeff said. “You’ve got to learn how to run the business, too.”

While Bell has accomplished a lot at as a high school freshman, she continues to seek empowerment from sources like DDA.

“That’s what I came here for,” Bell said. “I just love being able to come to an experience and take in as much as I can, because that’s what it is all about.”



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