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Boca teen chef in Houston cook-off

He's hoping to win a $90,000 scholarship


May 12, 2010   By John Tanasychuk, Sun Sentinel

     Christopher Fread has already won a $2,000 scholarship to culinary school at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.

Now the west Boca Raton 18-year-old is headed to Houston for a national competition where he could win a full, four-year Art Institute scholarship with a value of close to $90,000

"I've known I've been interested in culinary forever," says Fread, who will graduate from West Boca Raton Community High School on Friday. "When I was little, I used to cook with my grandmother — my yia-yia — we're Greek. I've always been around food and it's always been in my life."

     He beat six other teen chefs who had to make shrimp cocktail, a chicken dish, rice pilaf and broccoli. Fread made a classic mushroom duxelle stuffing for his chicken. He showed off his knife skills with a tomato concasse, where tomatoes are seeded and peeled before being diced. The tomatoes were then mixed into his pilaf. He served broccoli with an herb-infused oil.

     Fread starting cooking alongside his grandmother, Tasia Chambertides, of Fort Lauderdale. One of his earliest cooking memories is making spanakopita, or Greek spinach pie. "That's good stuff," he says.

Fread is such an accomplished Greek chef that his church — St. Mark's Greek Orthodox Church, in Boca Raton — gave him responsibility for running a restaurant during its annual January festival.

     "Every year, we have vendors outside and rides for kids and a bunch of booths," he says. "But this year, I got the opportunity to run a restaurant in the hall. It was called Zorba's Cafe and it was a full restaurant and it was pretty successful for the first year. I had a whole staff of students. We used a lot of the students from West Boca's culinary program."


     While his long-term goal is to one day open a restaurant— he's a fan of Gordon Ramsay— Fread has been busy preparing for the Houston event, where he'll face off against 35 other teen chefs.

     "There's going to be a 90-minute competition when I have to do seven skills and make a two-course meal," he says. "The two-course meal is a choice, but there's a whole list of ingredients and equipment."

Fread, who will travel to Texas with his mother, Debbie Fread, right after his graduationceremony, wouldn't reveal his menu or his strategy.

"It's going to be a surprise," he says. "I'm going to go with a Florida theme."

     When Fread isn't cooking, he's also a magician, performing at parks, nursing homes and birthday parties. His specialty is balloon work, but his show also includes birds, illusions and comedy.

     "That's just a hobby," he says. "It's a lot of fun. It's good money on the side, too."

     Debbie Fread believes it when her son says he's one day going to combine magic and cooking.

     "I'm sure he probably will," she says. "He always wanted to be in the kitchen, between my legs helping me cook. My mom, especially, he always wanted to be with her in the kitchen. We used to put him on a stool and let him do it. It was his passion. He had it in his heart."

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