Introducing Chef Taylor Brown
September 1, 2009
Taylor Brown dreams of being a chef.
Lots of people share that dream, and many of them, like Taylor, make their way to Cincinnati State’s Midwest Culinary Institute.
But Taylor Brown isn’t like any of the other aspiring chefs here.
For one, she’s just 12 years old. And those 12 years have been extraordinarily difficult. Taylor was born at 26 weeks gestation with multiple complications, and since then has battled a raft of illnesses that include cerebral palsy, osteoporosis and pituitary dwarfism. Two years ago she underwent a multi-visceral (small bowel, pancreas, liver colon) transplant at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and since then has been staying at the Ronald McDonald House as she continues to receive treatment.
Taylor’s family and friends describe her as a fighter with a strong will to live. They also confirm what’s obvious to anyone who meets her: she’s a sweetheart. Taylor operates her wheelchair with the speed and grace of a Formula 1 race car driver; beneath the mask she must wear is a smile that race car drivers normally reserve for the finish line.
Even though she can no longer eat solid food, Taylor loves cooking. She grew up playing with Easy Bake ovens and preparing meals for her dolls, and somehow, during all the hours she spent watching television, she became a fan of cooking shows. Rachel Ray? Oh, yeah. Bobby Flay? He’s cute. Paula Deen? Of course!
It was natural, then, for Taylor to come into the arms of the Midwest Culinary Institute.
Here’s how it happened.
Her family is from Canal Winchester, just south of Columbus, Ohio, but for the past two years they’ve been living at the Ronald McDonald House while Taylor was being treated at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Stacey Shiring, a graphic and website designer who volunteers with A Kid Again (a non-profit that helps 540 children in the tristate with life-threatening illnesses) met Taylor and her family and learned about Taylor’s love of cooking. Taylor’s story clicked with Stacey, who is herself a bit of a foodie – enough so that she’s been taking classes at the Midwest Culinary Institute and has volunteered with 1 Night 12 Kitchens, an event that raises scholarship funds for students.
Stacey called the school and told them about this amazing little girl who would love to visit the chefs. After a few well-placed phone calls the arrangements were quickly made, and on a drizzly morning in mid-August Taylor’s ambulance pulled up to the entrance of the Advanced Technology Learning Center with Stacey, Taylor’s mother, Beverly, her sister, Brittany, and her nurse, Diana Stapleton, in tow. It was the first time Taylor had been out of the hospital in four months – and it would prove to be the adventure of a lifetime for the little girl who dreamed of becoming a chef.
Taylor and her entourage were greeted by a Cincinnati State administrator, Tom Hale, and by MCI Chef Betsy LaSorella, who had made arrangements to help Taylor bake a special treat for her mother: crème brulee.
The first stop was one of the pastry kitchens in the MCI complex, where Betsy and Taylor washed up, then measured and mixed the ingredients and popped them into the oven. After that it was off for a tour of the other MCI kitchens – including one where Master Chef John Kinsella was teaching a class.
Chef Kinsella – the immediate past president of the American Culinary Federation -- knew Taylor was coming, and knew her story. And not only did he ask his students to show her the kitchen and pose with her for a photo, he gave her treasures: one of his very own culinary medals;a signed copy of one of his cookbooks; and the 272nd of the 275 American Culinary Federation President’s Medals that he will ever be able to award.
Eventually Taylor made it back to the pastry kitchens, where she met two other stars of the Midwest Culinary Institute’s stage – Chefs Mo Thie and Megan Ketover.
The culmination of the experience came after the crème brulee was popped out of the oven. Chef LaSorella fired up the torch and showed Taylor the secret of caramelizing the sugar topping.
When asked about the experience Taylor said with a big smile that being at the culinary school was the best day of her life! Her mom Beverly wanted to thank everyone that helped plan the day and that she was to happy to see Taylor’s dream of being able to visit the chefs come true.