It's a bountiful life: Chase finds his place
May/June 2015 California Bountiful magazine
Story by Barbara Arciero
Photos by Lori Fusaro
Despite autism, teen chef thrives—and inspires
More online:Chase's gluten-free veg-ghetti
Chase Bailey, shown with mom Mary Bailey, is right at home in the kitchen—and in front of the camera: The teen hosts an online cooking show.
Like the budding chef he is, 13-year-old Chase Bailey views life as the ultimate gourmet restaurant: With nearly infinite treats to savor, he's determined to make it an adventure, a celebration of all the possibilities. His website and online cooking show, "Chase 'N Yur Face," showcase the Irvine teen's enthusiasm and also chronicle the journey toward self-sufficiency he's made with his mom since being diagnosed with autism at age 2. Because her son learns best through hands-on activities, Mary Bailey home-schools Chase, using what she calls a life curriculum: a way of teaching that draws upon his natural passions and abilities—in this case, cooking—to give him the tools he needs to thrive.
Why did you start your own cooking show?
I started my own cooking show when I was 11 because I wanted to be like the chefs I saw on TV. I wanted to learn how to cook and make different recipes and show them to the world.
How would you describe your show to someone who has never watched it?
It's a comedy cooking show. I make simple dishes that anyone can make and try to make it fun.
Tell us how you came up with the name "Chase 'N Yur Face."
My uncle actually came up with the name a long time ago. He thought I was funny and he told my mom, "I can see Chase having a show one day and calling it Chase 'N Yur Face." Guess what, he was right!
What inspired you to start cooking and creating with food?
Watching the shows on the cooking channels and food network. I was watching all of these chefs and all of the food they were making and thought, "I can do that."
Have you ever visited a farm?
We went to The Farm in Orange, which is a private farm that grows food for a restaurant called The Ranch. We got to eat a lot of the fresh vegetables and fruits that they grow there. We ate them right off the vine. … My favorite thing that I tried were the blueberries. The visit made me want to try having my own garden when I have my restaurant.
Do you go to your local farmers markets?
If I have a recipe idea, I'll go to a farmers market with my mom for a field trip. One time we went to Santa Monica to the farmers market on the (Third Street) Promenade and there was a vendor that sold honey. He had all kinds of honey from different plants, like wildflower and avocado. The vendor said we should try the honey with cheese, so that's what we did. It was actually pretty good.
What is your favorite thing to make?
I don't have just one. I like to make my Meatzilla Pizza, my High Fivin' Summer Drink and my Peanut Butter Cup Pound Cake.
What is your favorite thing to eat?
I'm still a kid, so of course pizza.
What other things do you like to do?
I like to swim; it's my favorite sport. I like playing basketball, hanging out with my cousins and friends. I like video games, board games, going to the movies. One of my favorite things to do is to travel and learn about people and places.
"Life, laughter, love, learning …. and food" is a phrase you've highlighted on your website. What does it mean?
Those are things that make me happy. I wanted to share it because I think they will make other people happy too.
What kind of skills have you developed by working on your show and website and other projects?
I've learned lots of things. I'm learning how to be a better actor and what it's like to work on a set and what everyone's job is. I've learned how to use social media, like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I've learned a lot in the kitchen from my mom, my aunt and the guest chefs on my show. My mom teaches me about safety in the kitchen, like using timers so you don't burn things, checking to make sure the stove is turned off and things like that. My aunt teaches me how to bake and use proper measurements. I learned how to use chopsticks properly and to keep the kitchen clean from chef Roy Choi. I've learned how to cut properly and use a peeler from chef Becky Reams and I learned from Chef Galia Orme that chocolate can actually be really healthy for you.
What do you hope to accomplish?
I want to be a professional chef one day and own a restaurant. I also want to be an actor, a director and a producer. For fun, I want to learn how to be a DJ.
We also talked with Chase's mom, Mary Bailey:
How has Chase's interest in food and cooking helped him grow?
I'm a firm believer that everybody in the world needs to feel connected in one way or another. He found that thing in life that connects him to the world, that connects him to a community, that connects him to something that gives him self-worth and has helped him to set goals. I think it's important for everyone to have that. I'm really excited, especially when you're dealing with kids who are on the (autism) spectrum. It can be very difficult for them to find their way, and cooking has done that for him. It's given him a focus and it's helping him find his way in life.
Tell us more!
Chase's interest in cooking started when he was 10. We started the blog and cooking show when he was 11, while he was still in school. He has always struggled academically in school because he is such a highly visual learner. When I realized how much he was able to learn through cooking, I pulled him out of school and developed what I call a "life curriculum." The life curriculum is a way of teaching Chase that draws upon his natural passions and abilities—and in this case, cooking—in order to give him the education he needs.
Each quarter we focus on a different culture. First quarter was "Colonial Cuisine," in which he learned about early America and the foods that were popular during that time. We finished the quarter by taking a trip to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., to see historic landmarks and visit chef Walter Staib's restaurant, City Tavern. Second quarter was "Fusion Cuisine," and third quarter is "Dining Royally" and is all about the United Kingdom. In approaching Chase's education through cooking, he learns math, geography, history, science, fine motor and so much more.