14-year old foodie

14-year-old is accomplished chef, gives back by doing what she loves

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Catherine Amoriggi is a food blogger, culinary explorer and a cuisine connoisseur with a refined palate. Not to mention she’s only 14 years old.

Amoriggi, a student at Bay View Academy, began her food blog “Cooking with Cath” in March, but things really got “cooking” in June, when she began to update the online journal more frequently. Now her website includes dozens of recipes and photos of things like a fig and brie burger, cauliflower soup and cherry chocolate chunk gelato.

This Sunday, Amoriggi will be putting her culinary expertise to charitable use. The young chef is hosting a gathering to benefit the Rhode Island Food Bank. She’s asking the friends and family she’s invited for a $25 donation to benefit the Food Bank. In return, they’ll be treated to her homemade appetizers, finger foods and candy bars.

Amoriggi said she has always had a passion for cooking, and has been helping her family in the kitchen for as long as she can remember.

Now she still spends time in the kitchen with her family, picking up ideas from the people she loves and the places she’s visited.

“I cook with my nana and grandmother,” she said. “I've been fortunate enough to travel and taste different foods. I watch the Cooking Channel and Food Network.”

Amoriggi has traveled to France, Italy, New York and California, and always makes sure to do research on her destination before deciding where to dine.

“People say to my dad, ‘You're letting your 14-year-old pick the restaurants?’” she laughed.

But Amoriggi has refined taste for a 14-year-old.

“I’ve had everything from liver to rabbit,” she said.

Her mother, Joanne, said her daughter has even tried the French delicacy foie gras, or goose liver.

Out of all of her travels, Amoriggi said the place she draws the most inspiration from is New York City.

“It is there that I have been to many great restaurants including some of my family's personal favorites: Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Lidia and Joe Bastinach, Nobu and Daniel Boulud,” she said. “I love all of the chefs on TV including [just to name a couple] Michael Symon and Anthony Bourdain and have had the great experiences of going to some celebrity chefs' restaurants.”

Amoriggi said she enjoys watching cooking shows on television and used to pretend she was on her own show when she was younger.

“I really like the idea of a child chef,” said Amoriggi, who has pitched her idea to the Cooking Channel. “And I think that's a good idea for the Cooking Channel.”

Until she lands her own show, Amoriggi watches the television chefs, pulling inspiration and ideas from them.

Just like her idols, Amoriggi creates and designs her own recipes.

“I make it my own,” she said of her food.

She said she also looks up recipes online and tweaks them to her liking.

Nothing is past the limits of Amoriggi’s taste buds, and she describes herself as an “adventurous eater.”

Although her eating habits sometimes land her unwanted attention at lunch, Amoriggi said her friends are mostly open to trying new things.

“At lunch I bring leftovers,” she said. “In the past, someone asked me what hummus was. Most of the time people are impressed.”

Although Amoriggi likes to eat fresh foods (sometimes from the farmers’ market or her own garden), she said she does like the occasional French fry.

“I can be as normal as a typical teenager, but I do like things that are fresh and organic,” she said.

Catherine’s mom said she is proud of her daughter, who in many ways is an atypical teen.

“She's so authentic about it,” said Joanne. “She’s always had a love for things she can come up with her own baking recipes. She's just a natural, she’s always been different for a kid her age.”

Joanne said it’s nice to have a daughter who cooks and does something hands-on, versus spending hours in front of the computer.

But Catherine does tie the Internet into her love of food.

“I always wanted to start [a blog] and share my passion,” said Amoriggi.

Now her food blog is getting views from across the country and around the world from countries like Germany, Russia and Canada.

Amoriggi said her drive and passion are what keep her focused on managing her blog in addition to school, friends and other teenage responsibilities, which sometimes include cooking for her college-age sisters.

“Her sisters call her and say 'Catherine, can you come cook us something?'” laughed Joanne.

But Catherine doesn’t mind cooking for others, which is what she’ll be doing this weekend.

Catherine had the idea to hold a fundraising gathering after thinking upon her passion for cooking and eating.

“Well, I can never imagine life without food,” she said, thinking especially about other children her age who are unable to afford to eat.

So she thought up the idea to help others through doing the thing she loves to do most: cook.

“It's what ties people together,” said Amoriggi of food. “It's the universal language.”

On her blog, Amoriggi ends all of her entries with the words, “Happy Eatings.”

She urges the readers of her blog who are close to her own age to try to cook things themselves.

“We're the food future,” she said. “It's important to keep up traditions.”

Amoriggi advises novice cooks of all ages to take the chance and attempt to cook something delicious.

“Definitely be adventurous,” she said. “Make twists on recipes and get a piece of yourself in your cooking. Don't get frustrated [if you make a mistake], cook what you love to eat.”

Although this weekend’s event is private, Amoriggi’s recipes can be found on her blog at www.cookingwithcath.blogspot.com.

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