Georgia Catanese is 12 years old and already has her own business card, not to mention a design of the restaurant she wants to own when she grows up.
The "teen chef," as she refers to herself on her business card, is always thinking about what to cook up next — a trait her father doesn’t mind.
"She tells me one night, 'Hey, Dad, I'm going to cook jambalaya,' so I said, half-listening, 'Yeah, go ahead,’ " Georgia's father, Joseph, recalled. "Before I knew it, I had a delicious shrimp and chicken jambalaya that ended up being requested for a Super Bowl party."
And if you’d like to whip it up yourself, check out the video she has posted on her Facebook page, on which she goes by the name of Teen Chef G.
Opening a binder that is sectioned for her collection of recipes and ideas, she stops at a color-coded layout of her dream restaurant.
"This is what it will look like," she said, explaining what each color on the diagram meant. "It's something I know I want to do."
Georgia's "sky's the limit" attitude was tripped when she was 7 and her parents offered her the choice to have a second cochlear implant. She had her first implant at 15 months old, after her parents discovered she had been born "profoundly deaf."
She began attending the Hearing Impaired Program — also known as HIP — at Midland Park High School at age 3. Now in seventh grade, she attends the Secondary Hearing Impaired Program, known as SHIP, at the school.
Georgia’s can-do attitude has helped her overcome more than her share of adversity. Her mother, Donna — who was a volunteer active in Midland Park, a Girl Scout leader and a member of the Church of the Nativity — died at age 48 two years ago after a long struggle with cancer, and her father suffered a stroke shortly afterward. Now, her dad says, she cooks at least half of the meals for the two of them and her grandmother, who lives with them as well.
Georgia said her love of cooking started when she was 2 — her father remembers how she baked cookies at that age with her mother.
Her favorite dish to prepare is shrimp and scallops with white beans and herb sauce. And while she gets many of her cooking ideas from the likes of Bobby Flay and Rachael Ray on television, she often experiments with flavor combinations. She plans to attend a three-week program at Chef Central in Paramus in the summer.
As for her future, she has thoughts of attending the Bergen Academy of Culinary Arts and Hotel Administration in Hackensack and Tufts University after high school, but for now, she is focusing on more immediate recognition of her skills in the kitchen.
Fresh from an appearance at the Kids Food Festival in Bryant Park, the first of its kind hereabouts focusing on educating families about making balanced dietary choices through a weekend of activities ranging from food demonstrations to circus acts, Georgia is expected to be featured in Ramin Ganeshram’s next book. Ganeshram is both a chef and award-winning journalist whose titles now include "Sweet Hands: Island Cooking From Trinidad & Tobago" and a culinary novel called "Stir It Up!" for middle-grade readers.
"I was her sous chef," Georgia said with a big grin before popping out of her chair to take her cupcakes out of the oven.
The moist vanilla confections were made from scratch, a traditional concoction of flour, butter, sugar and vanilla. But she added a secret ingredient: brown sugar.
"It makes them a little different, a little special," Georgia said.
Although she has a variety of interests — basketball, soccer and sewing — and is on the honor roll, her interest in cooking shows no signs of abating soon.
Georgia is proud of the large kitchen her father renovated when he realized her deep passion for the culinary arts. She hopped to each cupboard to show their organization and the varieties of oils, spices and other ingredients they contain.
She remembers the time she cut her finger, the time she burned a wooden spoon, the time she burned garlic bread. But she also remembers her successes — now her favorite dishes.
"I like to make sesame ginger steak, mango pork roast, taco-seasoned chicken and Italian chicken," she said.
"We're Italian, so we always have all kinds of different pastas around, but it's not all I cook."