Rising star

Teenage chef starts her own catering business

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By Jane Knoerle

Almanac Staff Writer

Hailey Kehoe of Atherton prefers shopping the farmers' market to cruising the mall. She reads "Cook's Illustrated" magazine instead of "Seventeen." Her favorite TV program is "Iron Chef."

At 16, Hailey has her eyes on the prize. She wants to be a chef.

It started early for Hailey. When she was a toddler, she didn't watch "Barney." It was "No, mommy, I want to watch the 'bam' man" — referring to celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse's TV program.

When starting to read, Hailey pored over the labels on food packages, says her mother, Betsy Kehoe. Did this child come from a family of foodies? No. "I'm no gourmet, but I'm learning from her," says Betsy.

Hailey lives in Atherton with her parents, Patrick and Betsy Kehoe. She graduated from Nativity School and is a junior at St. Francis High School in Mountain View, where she plays varsity water polo.

She plans to attend culinary school after graduation, and visited the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and Johnson & Wales College of Culinary Arts in Providence, Rhode Island, during spring break. This summer she will attend week-long "Career Camps" at both schools.

Since the water polo season ended at St. Francis last fall, Hailey has concentrated on cooking. She cooks dinner for her parents every night (her mom does the dishes) and shops for food on Saturdays at the farmers' market at College of San Mateo.

"It's my favorite place to go in the whole world. You can find every specialty food in season."

Hailey Kehoe, caterer

Hailey launched a catering business, called Culinartist, in January. It came about when a friend of her mother sampled appetizers Hailey had made for a Christmas party. Crickette Brown Glad was so impressed she asked Hailey if she would like to cater a dinner party at her home in Hillsborough. There was a special requirement, however: The menu had to be gluten-free.

A gluten-free diet is completely free of foods containing gluten, such as wheat, barley and oats. Some of the most frequently used grains and starches in a gluten-free diet are corn, potatoes, rice, tapioca, buckwheat, millet and quinoa.

Hailey says she researched everything she could find about gluten-free foods, and came up with a multi-course menu for 10 people. The dinner included: pizza Margherita, Sicilian blood orange salad, pasta carbonara, veal Marsala, winter root vegetables, and chocolate orange mousse.

The linguine was made with quinoa and the veal was breaded in rice flour.

There were many sophisticated ingredients in the menu: Mimolette cheese and black truffles in the salad, pancetta and quail egg in the pasta, and a wine and mushroom reduction in the veal. "We've had to buy truffles, caviar, saffron. She's not afraid to try new things," says Betsy Kehoe.

The hostess was so pleased with Hailey's efforts that she booked her for another dinner party, and two more coming up this spring.

Guests were equally enthusiastic. "I had the wonderful pleasure of dining when Hailey performed her magic," says Beverly Stern, a guest at Ms. Brown Glad's dinner. "The meal was thoughtfully prepared, especially due to Crickette's eating options. ... I was senor vice president of Williams-Sonoma from 1997 to 2001. I have met many chefs and been in many kitchens. I myself am a self-taught foodie chef. ... Hailey will continue to shine and I know she will be very successful in her culinary adventures."

Does Hailey get nervous putting on a fancy dinner party for discriminating adults? She says no. "I do!" adds her mom.

Most of Hailey's friends can't imagine that she would want to spend her free time in a kitchen. "That's because they don't get cooking. They don't do it, so they don't realize it's a process, a very satisfying, artistic thing I can do that makes me feel good inside," says Hailey.

She realizes most teenagers don't have her mature palate. When friends eat at her house, they prefer the garlic bread and pizza to more sophisticated dishes. One friend, Kirsten Wessbecher, works with her as a sous chef, however.

When The Almanac visited the Kehoe household last week, Hailey whipped up a gourmet repast for us to sample. She prepared a salad of roasted golden and red beets in a white truffle oil vinaigrette, roasted artichoke hearts and asparagus in a lemon aioli sauce on a Gouda cheese crisp, and homemade lemon ravioli filled with fresh lobster and ricotta cheese in a lemon, butter and wine reduction sauce.

Each course was delicious. I couldn't stop eating the lacy cheese crisp, and the tender ravioli were plump with fresh lobster. In a few years, celebrity chefs are going to face some serious competition from this teenager.

All of Hailey's cooking isn't caviar and truffles. Her brother, Spencer, who is 23 and living in San Diego, is a "chocolate and meat person," she says. She makes chocolate chip cookies, fudge, and "my Nana's fudge sauce" for him.

Hailey Kehoe doesn't seem to have trouble "finding herself." She knows her career lies in cooking. "Something so elemental to life, food is so misunderstood by people of my generation. Now that I'm able to earn some money and do what I love, my friends are way more interested," she says.

"Food — it's my passion," says the teenager.

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