WHIZ KIDS: Taliah Dancil

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — This kid practically grew up on television winning Food Network competitions.

Taliah Dancil is no ordinary cook.

First of all, she’s 14 years old.

“I was watching tv one day,” Whiz Kid Taliah Dancil recalled. “I saw they had ‘Chopped Junior for Kids.’ I was like, ‘Mom, I want to go on that.’ She said, ‘You know that’s gonna be a lot of work right?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I still want to do that.’ She said ‘Ok.'”

She ended up winning Food Network’s Chopped Junior at age 11.

“I think the stressful part was cooking,” Dancil explained. “Then looking at the clock. Oh, I’m doing it so good. You look at it, it’s 10 minutes left. No! Where did the time go? The clock makes it stressful. We always called the clock evil. Because when the clock runs out, we can’t do anything else and that makes us sad.”

Hungry for more, she competed in Guy’s Grocery Games at age 12, and won that, too.

“It was fun,” she said. “guy. I had made a mofongo, a Dominican dish with plaintains. He kept – I used shrimp. I specialize in seafood. He kept coming over and eating it, which was detrimental to what I was doing. After awhile, after his third shrimp I was like ‘Ok, you have to go now. There won’t be anything left for the judges!’ He liked it.”>

I met Taliah in the kitchen at her school La Pietra.

She was preparing a cheesy herbed polenta with seared pollack and garlic butter wine sauce.

So how did I prepare to meet the twice-minted Food Network competition winner?

I came hungry.

“I like using butter when i cook especially when I’m using meats,” said Dancil. “My mom always tells me to slow down with the butter. I can go overboard. When I’m in the kitchen I tune everything out. My mom will be talking to me. I’ll be like ‘What did you say? I didn’t hear you.’ it’s like a whole another world in the kitchen. A way to express yourself through what you cook and present to people. I’m going to quote a Disney movie, Ratatouille. What makes a good cook, not really nothing, It’s the love and emotion you put into your food. The only way for food to taste good is if you have love in it. You can be the best chef in the world but if you don’t give your food love and time, it’s not going to taste good.”

The teen tells me she has no formal culinary training.

“It’s very natural. everyone in my family cooks,” she shared. “My moms side, dad’s side, my aunties, grandmas. even my sister has an easy bake oven. Even if it’s really suspicious, she cooks. Do you eat her food? I pretend to eat it. I put it somewhere behind me because it’s kind of weird.”

It’s clear she knows her way around the kitchen.

“The recipe for success is hard work, dedication, and what’s that word? I’m trying to look for that -discipline! Yeah! You work hard now so you can play later.”

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