“Can you hear the sizzle?”
Chef Jet Tila, of Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen and Iron Chef fame, was tossing rice, spices, and pineapple together to make one of his signature dishes, and his audience of Heathwood Middle School students was spellbound as he demonstrated how to bring out the most flavor possible from each ingredient.
Chef Jet’s October 4 appearance at Heathwood, where he gave a cooking demo for the entire Middle School student body, then visited with students of all ages at lunch, was facilitated by his partnership with Flik Independent School Dining, which runs Heathwood’s Dining Commons. It wasn’t the first time Heathwood students have met him—he was also one of the judges for the SCISA Middle School Cooking Competition at Porter Gaud last year.
Most of the students in the audience for the cooking demo had no experience of participating in a cooking competition, but Chef Jet was wowed by their knowledge of his craft, calling them the most culinary-savvy school he’d visited.
As he cooked, Chef Jet also recounted stories form his own childhood as the son of Thai immigrants in Los Angeles. His grandparents opened the first Thai restaurant in the United States, and it was the time he spent there after school each day that instilled in him a passion for cooking which eventually led him to study and to work all over the world.
His story was an inspiration never to shy away from a challenge. Recounting the first time he appeared on Iron Chef, where he had to battle a famed chef who was one of his biggest idols, he said, “I was super scared, but when it was over, it changed my life.” Not only did he win the respect of his idol, he made such an impression that his TV career was launched.
After the presentation, Chef Jet fielded questions from the audience, then stayed for lunch, where he chatted one-on-one with students and posed for pictures. His presentation was live-streamed on Facebook and can be viewed by anyone—just go to https://www.facebook.com/HeathwoodHall and look for the video post on October 4.
More About Chef Jet Tila
From the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Normandie Avenue in the heart of Los Angeles to the Las Vegas Strip; from backyard cooking classes to battling legends on “Iron Chef America”—Jet Tila has carved a singular niche as a culinary storyteller. Thanks to his diverse background and education, Tila is as comfortable as chef and consultant as he is teacher and student in the art of food. His numerous accomplishments in the culinary world continue to grow. In 2013 alone, Tila has partnered with the Compass Group, the world’s largest food-service company, to launch Modern Asian Kitchen, a new fast-casual Pan-Asian concept with locations nationwide. He is also set to separately open Kuma Snow Cream, a shaved-ice concept launching in Las Vegas this spring, all while continuing to build on his extensive national TV and radio appearances as a guest judge on “Chopped,” as well as hosting his own radio show on KLAA in Los Angeles.Tila grew up in his family’s restaurant kitchens and markets in Los Angeles, home to the world’s largest Thai population outside of Thailand. As a boy, he spent time learning the ancient traditions of Asian cuisine from his Cantonese grandmother and working in the famed Bangkok Market, which opened in 1972, and Royal Thai restaurant, which opened in 1978. “I call it birth luck,” he says. “I was born into the ‘first family’ of Thai food in Los Angeles. My parents came here separately in 1966 and went on to open the first restaurants and grocery stores in this country and I was the kid doing homework in the back corner of the restaurant.”