School: Hamilton High School
There’s a certain thrill that comes from getting reader responses to your blog. But for Jessica Burke, this might have been different. Her cooking blog, Otium Eats, was her outlet for talking about her passion, cooking. But the reader questions? They tapped into something special.
Because when someone across the globe asked, “Why do onions make you cry?” a simple Google search wouldn’t suffice for Burke. She really wanted to know why – what the chemical reaction was, how that physically took form. She was, at heart, a scientist.
“I’ve always loved to cook,” said Burke, 16, a sophomore at Hamilton High School. “Most specifically, what I love about cooking is food science.”
Otium Eats now gets about a half-million visits a month from readers in 90 countries. Her first post was about a chicken marinade. And while the posts might educate her audience, Burke says the give-and-take she’s getting from her readers might be the most rewarding part.
“The questions’ part is what drives me to keep writing, it’s always been the inspiration,” she said. “Recipes can be very complicated. There’s a lot of different vocabulary. I think what’s really interesting is how different ingredients interact – emulsions, how to create them.”
During the pandemic, Burke reached out to Native Health, a group that works with the Navajo community, to see if she could be of help. She discovered that while food donations were plentiful, many donations were food ingredients that people didn’t know how to use. So, Burke did some research and wrote recipes using the commonly donated ingredients.
Her creativity didn’t stop there. Burke said her favorite recipe creation is her air-fried pumpkin shakarparas, an Indian diamond-shaped cookie. She’s trying new recipes out on her family, too, before she publishes.
“I just cooked a meal last night,” she said. “I made teriyaki salmon and my own recipe for a cabbage slaw salad.”Back to Recipients