Edmonton child chef lands spot in national recipe book

Chaitanya Gautam was cooking his own meals from scratch before he could even reach across the kitchen countertop.

Chaitanya Gautam learned to cook from his mother

Edmonton's Chaitanya Gautam's recipe for aloo gobi will be featured in Kid Nation cookbook set for publication later this fall. (CBC)

Chaitanya Gautam was cooking his own meals from scratch before he could even reach across the kitchen countertop.

Now 12, Gautam is experiencing his first foray into the professional food scene.

One of his dishes was named a winner in the Kid Food Nation national recipe contest and will be featured in the Kid Food Nation cookbook, set for distribution nationwide later this fall.

Gautam's winning recipe? Aloo gobi, a dish he considers a personal specialty.

"It's an Indian recipe," Gautam said in an interview Tuesday with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"It's traditional. My mom makes it, my aunts used to make it in India, so when I saw my mom making it, I was like, 'I want to try this.' "

'Not too spicy, not too sweet'

The vegetarian dish is a fragrant mix of cauliflower, potato and traditional masala spices.

"I make it when I feel like it and also when my mom wants me to make it. It's also made for traditional cultural days, when there's a feast," Gautam said. 

"I love really hot food but my mom and dad, they don't like very much. I try to balance it out and make it not too spicy, not too sweet."

It's like I started out as a sous chef.- Chaitanya Gautam 

Gautam said it's hard to remember exactly when he started cooking. He learned from his mother who would often ask him, as a small child, to chop vegetables and help her around the kitchen.

"It's like I started out as a sous chef," Gautam said. "I wanted to do more … but then I just started doing it on my own. I was like, 'Why don't you take a break and I'll do it.' "

Eventually he began preparing his own meals. After graduating from simple noodles, he now prepares and serves the family meal two or three times a week.

When he's not playing music or volunteering, he can be found in the kitchen, experimenting with new recipes and ingredients, always of course, with a bit of parental supervision.

When Gautam  found out about the contest through the local Boys and Girls Club, he couldn't wait to submit his recipe. He learned officially of his win four months ago and will join 25 other winners at the second-annual Kid Food Nation gala in Ottawa's Fairmount Château Laurier on Oct 21. 

Gautam is looking forward to the trip. 

"It's amazing," he said. "I know we're going to go, stay in a hotel and have dinner, what else is there?"