With a popular YouTube channel and a growing stack of awards, Nathaniel Forkin is one of the best young chefs in Florida
With a name like Forkin, you know this kid is destined for culinary greatness.
He stirs! He sifts flour! He bakes! He grills! He places high in statewide cooking contests!
He may be only nine years old, but Longwood resident and Sabal Point Elementary student Nathaniel Forkin is a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen. In fact, he recently placed second in a kids’ cooking competition hosted by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
It was called the Lunchroom Wars, Florida’s Official Student Chef Cook-off, and the goal was not only to shine the spotlight on kid chefs like Nathaniel who are between the ages of 7 and 13, but also to highlight Florida-grown ingredients with a focus on the importance of good nutrition and healthy eating habits.
Nathaniel was first announced as one of three finalists before the winners were revealed on May 27. The second-place finish has only increased his love of creating dinner entreés, breakfast favorites, and side dishes of all kinds, and he’s already anxiously awaiting the chance to apply for next year’s contest.
Feeding a Passion
Contest entrants submitted cooking videos for consideration by a panel of judges and were asked to use in-season Florida produce. All finalists got a gift package of chef utensils and accessories from top brands, along with 529 scholarship money, says Nathaniel’s mom, Catalina Bohorquez.
Catalina says the contest’s timing was ideal, during the pandemic, when many more kids were learning virtually and at home.
“During COVID, while a lot of kids were locked in the house, they found a love for cooking,” she says.
Nathaniel definitely had an edge in the competition. His video entry was hardly the first time he’s cooked up a storm while being filmed. Since age six, Nathaniel has been a fixture in the kitchen along with his stepfather, Bas Nijmeijer, who is an assistant catering manager for Seminole County Public Schools. Together, the two even host their own cooking YouTube channel, Cook and Learn with Baba and Nano, a play on their culinary nicknames.
Their YouTube channel offers an instructional glimpse into the world of cooking through the eyes of the enthusiastic kid chef. Bas reminds kids watching at home that Nathaniel has been trained in using a large knife, and that if they haven’t, they should ask a grownup for help.
In one episode, Nathaniel makes fettuccine alfredo from scratch.
“I like thickness #5,” he says as he feeds the dough through the pasta press.
In another episode, he mixes ingredients by hand for Colombian arepas, a type of cornmeal cake.
“It’s time to get our hands dirty!” says Nathaniel. “Where’s the fun in using a mixer?”
He is definitely a boy with his own style, referring to parmesan crisps as “cheese cookies,” for example, and admitting he doesn’t always measure ingredients, such as vanilla in some baked goods, for example.
Nathaniel’s range of creations go from breakfast to desserts and touch on everything in between, including stuffed peppers, goat-cheese quiche, and risotto with steak and mushrooms.
Nathaniel, who will be a fourth grader at Sabal Point this fall, is a whiz at whipping up lasagna, chicken sandwiches that are a copy-cat version of a famous fast-food favorite, ground-beef sliders, and homemade pancakes.
Just like lasagna noodles create layers of flavor as ingredients in the dish, the people in Nathaniel’s life have helped him to become the culinary and YouTube master he is, even at such a young age.
“We don’t hire anyone,” says Nathaniel. “In this house, it’s just, ‘Boom!’ We get to work!”
Nathaniel firmly believes cooking can teach people a lot of things.
“You learn that it’s not only about the food – how it’s made – but who you make it with,” he says. “The secret ingredient is love.”
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