Cookbook speaks volumes for autistic teen’s many accomplishments
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It’s the endearing smile that first captivates you. It’s followed quickly by an equally engaging and easygoing on-camera presence, smart conversation peppered with plenty of humor, and a professionalism that belies the age of this young YouTube star.
But that’s only scratching the surface of Chase Bailey, a California wunderkind whose been inspiring children and adults for the past two years via his cooking show channel on YouTube, his website and his latest venture, “The Official Chase ‘N Yur Face Cookbook,” which features 75 original recipes as well as anecdotes and culinary tips/fun facts. (The book is available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble; a portion of the proceeds from the book’s sale will benefit Bailey’s Chase Yur Dreams Foundation.)
And all that is quite an accomplishment for Chase Bailey, who is only 15 years old, and autistic. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.” Approximately 1 in 68 American kids are identified as being on the autism spectrum.
Chase was diagnosed with autism at age 2 by a neurologist and confirmed shortly thereafter by a psychologist, according to Mary Bailey, Chase’s mom and the captain of his incredible and loving support system. “Chase doesn’t have any siblings, but he has a lot of friends,” Mary Bailey said in an email conversation. “And I have 13 brothers and sisters so Chase has approximately 30 cousins. All but three of those cousins live close by so he’s never lonely.”
Cooking has become Chase’s passion, his way of connecting, of expressing joy and sharing the fun with as many kids (and grownups) as he can. His mission is meant to inspire, and feed the soul as well as the stomach.
On his website, Chase, who is home-schooled and currently in the ninth grade, explains his journey: “To me, having autism means that my brain and body work differently than other peoples’ do, and I learn and do things in different ways. … My diagnosis also included speech delay and other developmental and physical issues. Some doctors even told my mom that I would probably never speak, and would not be able to take care of myself. But that’s not how things are turning out for me. With the help of family, friends, and some other amazing people, I have been able to beat the odds, overcome many of the challenges, and do the things that I dream about.”
That dream revolves around cooking, creating recipes using fresh and readily available ingredients, resulting in dishes that are as original as they are fun. The foods he once could not stomach are now a most-welcome sight to his meals. He is most happy in the kitchen.
“Hindsight being 20/20, Chase’s food aversions started when he was an infant,” Mary Bailey said. “He refused to take a bottle. I didn’t recognize the signs however until he was transitioning to baby food. It was at this time that he refused to eat anything other than two types of baby foods — chicken and rice and green beans and potatoes. As he transitioned to solid foods, he would only eat approximately five foods. He would eat chicken stars and fries, pepperoni pizza, chips and dip (although it was mostly the chips), chocolate chip cookies, and occasionally he would eat apples. All of these foods had to be a specific brand or from a particular place. There are a range of special diets that children and adults on the autism spectrum are on, and gluten-free is one of the main ones [all of the cookbook’s recipes note a gluten-free option]. Chase really wanted his cookbook to be inclusive. Something for everyone.”
The idea for Chase’s online videos began with him cooking at home and then posting the finished dishes on YouTube. That soon evolved into a full-on YouTube show where his abilities soon caught the eye of celebrity chefs including Mario Batali, Roi Choi and chocolatier Galia Orme, and others, who’ve shared their culinary expertise with the teen via his videos and on TV shows such as “The Chew.”
What follows is an edited transcript of my email conversation with Mary and Chase Bailey. Two recipes from his cookbook are featured at the story’s conclusion.
Q. How old were you when you saw your first cooking show and do you
remember what you liked the most about it?
Chase Bailey: I was around 7 or 8 when I started watching the cooking shows. I liked watching the competitions and I liked that they traveled to try out their foods, and I liked watching people having fun and enjoying their food. They looked like the food was making them really happy.
Q. How much of a surprise was it to you that Chase fell in love with cooking shows and was soon trying “exotic foods.”
Mary Bailey: I was over joyed to see his interest in food go from non-existent to adventurous. We tried several different food therapies with Chase. We never thought to try introducing him to cooking shows. That was something he discovered with my grandfather and it was absolutely amazing how responsive he was to it. [He went] from eating chicken stars and French fries to eating beef tongue and fois gras. Then to coming up with his own recipes. I felt like a door had been opened that I had been struggling for years to find the key to.
Q. Chase, how did you come up with the idea of doing a cookbook and why?
CB: Well I knew I would do a cookbook one day and I already had my journal with recipes and recipe ideas, but someone called my mom and said, “How would Chase like to do a cookbook?” My mom said, “Let me talk to my son about that.” My mom told me all about it and I said, “SURE! That would be cool!” I thought, I already have a recipe journal might as well put it to good use and share it with the world.
Q. What are some of your favorite recipes in the cookbook and why?
CB: That’s really hard to choose but I love my fish ‘n chips, my peanut butter cup pound cake, my tikka masala pizza and my burger recipes.
Q. Do you remember some of the earliest foods that you really enjoyed eating and what were they? Why did you like them so much?
CB: I liked chicken stars and French fries a lot. I liked them because of the crunch. It was soft on the inside and I liked hearing and feeling the crunch. I used to eat pizza from one particular place. I liked it because the dough was soft and chewy and then the crunch on the outside of the crust. I don’t know what it is about the crunch but it made me like that kind of food.
Q. How old were you when you saw your first cooking show and do you remember what you liked the most about it?
CB: I was around 7 or 8 when I started watching the cooking shows. I liked watching the competitions and I liked that they traveled to try out their foods and I liked watching people having fun and enjoying their food. They looked like the food was making them really happy.
Q. What is your favorite cooking show to watch?
CB: That’s tough. I like competitions and I like shows with traveling. If I had to choose though, I would have to say “Eat St.” [on the Cooking Channel] was my favorite show. It’s the show that got me to start trying new foods and being excited about cooking.
Q. What are some of your favorite foods that you like to cook?
CB: I like to cook burgers and different types of sandwiches. I like to cook tacos and different pizzas. I like baking cakes and cookies.
Q. You have cooked with some very famous celebrity chefs. Which one is your favorite and what have you learned from him or her?
CB: I’ve learned a lot from all of the chefs I’ve worked with. I don’t have a favorite but I do have one that has really helped me a lot. His name is Chef Nick Shipp. He’s the executive chef at Upper West restaurant in Santa Monica, California. He is like a big brother and chef mentor. He let’s me come into his restaurant and help him cook. He teaches me about cooking.
Q. What did it feel like to be on “The Chew” with Mario Batali?
CB: That was a huge deal. I never thought I would cook with one of the most famous chefs ever. He’s funny and happy. I like that he always wears Crocs and shorts. He’s like a cool, kick-back kind of guy who can cook really good.
Q. I love the part of the cookbook talks about how you “feed the beast” with lunchtime meals. How did you come up with all these incredible recipes?
CB: Sometimes I think of a type of food and how I can spice it up and then an idea will pop in my head. Other times, I see dishes as pictures in my head and then I think about how to make the picture in my head. I’ll tell my mom that I thought of a recipe and I’ll tell her what is in it and we work on measurements together and bringing it to life. And then sometimes, my mom will want me to eat more vegetables or something and I’ll think of how I can eat it with something else so that it doesn’t taste as bad. Like mushrooms or broccoli.
Q. You are so great on the cooking videos featured on your YouTube channel. You make it look so easy. Is it a lot of fun to do the videos or a lot of work? Or both? The food looks so delicious!
CB: Thank you. It’s a little bit of both. It’s very fun I get to help make up lines and play characters sometimes, and make jokes. Sometimes I would even dance. It’s also hard work though. I have to memorize lines sometimes. You have to stop a lot and do things over again sometimes.
Q. Why was it important to create The Chase Yur Dreams Foundation?
CB: Because a lot of people helped me with my challenges when I was younger and I thought there’s a lot of people who are struggling like me when I was younger so I thought I gotta do something about this.
MB: The Foundation’s main purpose is to provide resources and grants to individuals with autism who are working toward living independently, which includes educational and vocational training grants. We also will be providing grants to organizations who provide these services and training to individuals on the autism spectrum.
Q. What does being a chef mean to you, Chase? What kind of restaurant would you like to open one day?
CB: It means a lot. I get to cook, you get to be creative in the kitchen. I want to have a fancy sit-down grilled cheese restaurant and 2 Mexican restaurants and a few other kinds as well.
Q. In addition to cooking are there other things you enjoy, such as music or sports?
CB: Oh yes. I love to swim and go to the beach. I’m a big-time swimmer. I love to play video games with my buds. I like traveling different places. I like reading about facts on Wikipedia. I love to read books. I love all kinds of music. I love to learn. And I love comedy.
Q. You truly are inspiring to both kids and adults. What do you want to say to other kids out there who want to start cooking like you?
CB: Don’t be afraid to try. If it doesn’t work the first time, you can just throw it out and start again. Cooking is about having fun, experimenting, experiencing, and patience.
RECIPES: Courtesy of Chase Bailey
PEACHY KEEN (Gluten-free wraps)
Makes 8 to 10 wraps
1 cup diced or shredded cooked chicken breast (Note: a fresh-cooked rotisserie chicken from the supermarket works great)
1/2 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons Poppy Seed Dressing (recipe follows)
8 to 10 leaves butter lettuce
2 tablespoons chopped almonds
1 ripe peach, pitted, an diced or cut into slices
In a small mixing bowl, combine the chicken, cheese and poppy seed dressing. Stir until well-blended. Add approximately 2 tablespoons of this chicken mixture onto the center of a lettuce leaf. Sprinkle your desired amount of chopped almonds on top,and add a slice of peach. Repeat with the remaining lettuce leaves.
POPPY SEED DRESSING (Gluten-free)
Makes approximately 1-1/2 cups
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 teaspoon gluten-free Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
In a medium-sized bowl, add the yogurt, vinegar, oil, sugar, onion powder, poppy seeds, mustard and salt. Whisk to combine. Refrigerate before serving.
Serves 4 to 6
1 8- to 12-ounce package gluten-free spaghetti
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup chopped green zucchini
1/2 cup chopped yellow zucchini
1/2 cup chopped orange bell pepper
5 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups fresh spinach leaves
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Cook the spaghetti according to package directions; drain and set aside
In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the zucchini and bell pepper, and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes, salt and pepper, and saute an additional two minutes. Slowly stir in the spaghetti and spinach, making sure all the ingredients are well-blended. Divide onto individual serving plates and serve immediately with Parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top.
Recipes copyright “The Official Chase ‘N Your Face Cookbook, (Greenleaf Book Group Press)