MIDLOTHIAN – Kenzie Mills is chopping her way through a bag a yellow zucchini.
“I am definitely feeling the pressure, because I’m 11,” she said. “And I’m controlling the staff of the kitchen.”
On Wednesday, the home-schooled sixth-grader took over as executive chef at Mo & Hari’s Italian Bistro.
Everyone knows barbecue is big in Texas. And for the pint-sized chef, she gets to show off her Texas barbecue prowess on national television. Kenzie is appearing on the Food Network’s Chopped Junior for a competition that’s all about barbecue – one of her specialties.
“I love to barbeque,” she said. “You have to do it low and slow but at the end of it, it’s amazing.”
The restaurant allowed her to take over the menu and spice things up. Even the manager is helping with food prep for the watch party.
“Kenzie is why we do this (cook),” she said in between preparing appetizers for the evening’s watch party. “I had to have her here. It wasn’t a want, or a can we, it was you have to do this here. I have to have you here.”
Kenzie has wanted to be a chef since she was a toddler. She says barbecuing is a weekend tradition she shares with her dad, Sean.
“An 11-year-old child who’s willing to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning to fire up the smoker, and baby it? She’s amazing,” he said, adding that he’s not just saying that because he’s her Dad. “If I was better than her, I would tell her. She takes it (cooking) very seriously and has a great time doing it.”
As a toddler, Kenzie received her first apron and set of measuring cups.
“My favorite thing about cooking is the way it brings people together,” she said dropping zucchini into her food processor, one of her three most prized cooking tools. “And the way I get to be myself and show my personality and my feelings through whatever I cook.”
Mum’s the word on the outcome for tonight’s episode. Kenzie says you’ll have to watch and see.
“Definitely tune in to see what happens,” she said, grinning. “And if I really do dominate the kitchen.”