Lincoln freshman wants to be 'Chef Jeff'

December 24, 2003|EMILY TOADVINE

STANFORD - Jeff Sawyer picked out a nickname for himself. The freshman at Lincoln County High School calls himself "Chef Jeff."

Jeff, who likes to make cakes and ranks Peanut Butter Pie as one of his favorites, traces his fascination with cooking to a year ago when he became a fan of cooking shows.

"I started watching TV and I started liking it. It was fun."

He used to be a fan of basketball games on ESPN, but now would rather tune in to Emeril Lagasse. Instead of watching players score, Jeff is learning how to make green beans with bacon bits or cook salmon on the grill.

Jeff says Lagasse sprinkles his shows with humor. In addition to making Jeff laugh, Lagasse has taught him "not to burn your food."


"He likes to be funny a lot. I guess that's where I get my funniness."

For a recent English class assignment, Jeff wrote about Lagasse as someone who has influenced him.

"I titled it 'Bam.' He always says bam a lot."

Jeff's mother, Donna Hair, says her son helps her a lot and has shown a lot of talent in the kitchen.

"He likes to create his own meals. He likes to cook with pasta," she says, noting that he may jazz up the pasta with mushrooms, onions, olives, peppers, tomatoes and Parmesan and parsley. Her oldest son, Brian, a freshman at Campbellsville University, specializes in eating.

"He does a good job of that," says Hair, who notes that her husband, Bob, also samples Jeff's creations.

Whereas the family enjoys Jeff's creations, his mom cites doing dishes as his downfall.

"Now that I've got him cooking, I can't get him to clean up his messes," she says.

Since Jeff started cooking, he has shared his dishes with his church and neighbors. He participated in a chili cook-off at his church, Calvary Hill Baptist.

"I make it kind of spicy. I didn't win, but of course, it was my first time."

The cooking shows are good not only for entertainment, but give Jeff some ideas to try. He created a dip that is good with vegetables or potato chips after watching the show.

"I kind of saw it on TV, but I added different things to it and made it better."

His cooking accomplishments have not made Jeff a snob about eating school lunches. He still enjoys chicken patties, but after he graduates, he intends to go to culinary school and start his career as a chef.

"I don't want anything fancy, just to own a restaurant around here," says Jeff, who rates Regatta seafood restaurant as one of his favorites.

Jeff says he does receive some teasing from his friends over spending time in the kitchen, but he takes it all in stride.

"Some of them say it's not a guy thing. I tell them most chefs in the world are guys and they make a lot of money, so I might be in that stage one day."

Although Jeff prefers to make desserts, he tried some appetizers with New Year's Eve gatherings in mind. He decided he liked potato skins after having them at a restaurant. He prefers to use whole strips of bacon rather than crumbling it.

"That way it doesn't fall off," he says.

With Christmas coming, Jeff has several kitchen tools in mind. He especially would like to have a doughnut maker.

"I love doughnuts, especially with the icing on them," he says.

Potato Skins

5 medium potatoes

1/4 pound bacon fried and crumbled or left in strips, or use bacon bits

1/2 to 3/4 cup sour cream

1/2 to 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Oil for deep frying

Salt and pepper to taste

Bake potatoes. Slice in half. Spoon out potato, leaving 1/2 to 3/4 inch of potato inside skin. Deep fry for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oil, drain. Top skins with bacon bits and cheese. Place under broiler for about one minute or until cheese melts. Top with sour cream and garnish with chives.

Jalapeno Dip

1/2 small green pepper

2 cups sour cream

1/4 cup onion

5 to 6 jalapeno peppers

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Dash of salt

Dash of pepper

In a blender combine green pepper, onion, and jalapeno peppers; mince. In a large bowl, add green pepper, onion, jalapeno peppers, sour cream, salt, pepper, and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Mix well. Refrigerate.

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