Stirring up new skills


Eric Hong

DBHS senior Jeffrey Liao and junior Logan Knight enjoy cooking and have even won a competition hosted in the Inland Empire area.

Catherine Zhang, Feature Editor

Filleting a steak, baking Crème brûlée, stir frying Chinese-inspired noodles with the addition of fragrant spices, colorful herbs and crunchy vegetables:  Diamond Bar High School senior Jeffrey Liao; juniors Logan Knight and Megan Wu have developed such skills after years of cooking and baking.

Both Liao and Knight developed their passion for cooking as children. Due to his mother’s insistence, Liao  started off cooking simple Asian dishes, such as noodles, fried rice and dumplings. After his initial reluctance, Liao soon enjoyed creating dishes in the kitchen.

“I thought it was annoying and I liked ordering food, but cooking taught me independence. I didn’t have to rely on my parents to cook for me anymore,” Liao said.

Unlike Liao, Knight was fascinated with cooking television shows, such as “Masterchef” and “Iron Chef,” which prompted him to start cooking. Starting off with simpler dishes like pancakes and salads, Knight  gradually began preparing  more complex items, such as pasta and various desserts. However, Knight wasn’t the typical beginner, as he strayed from set instructions, focusing  on creating his own recipes.

“Every chef can make the same dish, but all the dishes can end up tasting completely different due to the way the chef cooks it. There’s a lot of individuality in cooking,” Knight said.

However, Wu, who categorizes herself more of a baker than a chef, began baking on a whim after her household ran out of bread. At the age of twelve years old, Wu realized her passion for baking after preparing home-made bread from scratch with the help of an online recipe.

Although the bread was undercooked and dense, the junior considers the baking experience vital, as she realized the various benefits of baking.

“It’s relaxing for me. I like making food for other people, and it makes me happy to give it to them,” Wu said.

Last year, both Liao and Knight entered a local teenage cooking contest in the Inland Empire area to hone their cooking abilities. In the “Iron Chef” style competition, five contestants were randomly grouped into one team, and each team represented an assigned cuisine theme. Liao and Knight were allotted to the same group, and the team was given the American cuisine theme. During the competition, the contestants prepared their meal live in front of the judges, and some had to wear microphones to explain their cooking process.

Two weeks prior to the contest, all of the competing six teams met up and practiced preparing their dishes. Liao and Knight’s group decided to serve a salad as the appetizer, steak with lamb sauce as the main entree and molten lava cake as the dessert.

Attributing their win to frequent practice sessions, Liao and Knight won movie tickets and a framed certificate. Through this competition, Liao gained new insight in preparing dishes pertaining to another cuisine.

“Before this competition, I mainly only knew how to cook Asian cuisine. Our theme was American cuisine, so I expanded my culture through this,” Liao said.

Junior Megan Wu has enjoyed baking desserts and even sells them to clients.

Both Liao and Knight aspire to enter more cooking competitions, although neither plans to pursue cooking professionally.

After multiple years of baking experience, Wu can successfully create macarons, cupcakes, cakes, crème brûlée and muffins. Once or twice every two weeks, she sells baked goods, including macarons, cupcakes and cakes, to clients, who request the flavors, colors, amounts and designs of the desserts.

Due to her passion for baking, she considered branching into the field professionally by opening a bakery; however, she realized the difficulties of pursuing baking as career, thus deciding to pursue the goal after settling down.

“I talked about it with my mom. I realized there might be unstability, so I’m putting it off until the future when I’m middle aged and create the bakery on the side,” Wu said.

Like other hobbies, cooking and baking require constant practice, and Liao advises beginners to continue cooking, despite any initial mistakes they may have made.

“If you don’t do well the first time, don’t give up because no one’s going to have good cooking the first time they cook,” Liao said.