Chandler girls’ culinary interests saluted - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler girls’ culinary interests saluted

May 27th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Chandler girls’ culinary interests saluted

By Ken Sain
Staff Writer

They took different paths but the two Chandler teens ended up exploring the science around culinary arts and it helped them get noticed.

For one, it was trying to do something for her family. For the other, it was simple curiosity.

Hamilton High School’s Jessica Burke and Arizona College Prep’s Mihira Karnick were both named to Junior Achievement of Arizona’s 18 under-18 list – an honor that recognizes the entrepreneurial efforts of the state’s youth.

Both students earned their recognition applying science to food.

Mihira became interested in the subject because her family sometimes struggles after eating vegetables and she wanted to help. Jessica wanted to understand why marinating meat made it taste better.

They were not the only Chandler teens to make the list. Others are Jenna Lee of BASIS Chandler; Prisha Shroff of Hamilton; and Sripriya Srinivas of Horizon Honors Secondary.

Mihira said her interest in the science of food began around the sixth grade.

“My family has just kind of had a history of  stomach problems,” she said. “So I was actually more focused on how it was impacting my family and our health. And I was really like, confused as to why because I know we eat healthy usually.”

Her research led her to discover that vegetables have strong cell structures that is difficult for some people to break down, especially if they have weak stomachs like her  family.

That could be a problem, Mihira explained, because they try to eat healthy and they want all proteins and enzymes that are also in the vegetables. She said if you steam the vegetables too long, they may be easier to digest but then you lose all the nutritional value of eating vegetables.

“And then I just kept working on this,” she said. “I worked with a professor at ASU, just looking more into nutritional health and nutritional research.”

Mihira said that she discovered that the ideal time to steam vegetables to make them easier to eat and still retain the nutrients is four minutes. The research led to her creating a cooking pot that will notify you when the vegetables are ready.

She is currently marketing that device and has turned it into a business.

Jessica said she was in a culinary class and they were making marinade for chicken.

“I asked the instructor, ‘how does the marinade work?’” she recalled. “How does the chicken get the taste of the marinade?’ And, she didn’t know.”

The teacher told her it’s a great question to search on the Internet. She learned a marinade has three base elements: An acid, oil, and flavor. The search for that answer led to an interest in food science, and the creation of a blog dedicated to the subject.

She said her Otium Food Science Blog has had about three million visits and become a thriving business.

“People from all around the world started asking questions,” Jessica said. “So people from Indonesia asking me … ‘How does like how does hot chocolate work?’ Or, ‘What is an instant pot?’”

Jessica and Mihira had taken a tutoring class together and said they knew of each other, but they didn’t really converse about their similar interest until being named to the 18 under-18 list.

They said it was a great experience meeting all the other students on the list.

“It’s good to be surrounded by people that are hardworking and ambitious,” Mihira said.

Anne Landers, the vice president for strategic impact, said it was difficult choosing the 18 under 18. She said a couple hundred apply each year. From that, they narrow the pool down to 36 to interview before selecting the final 18.

“It is one of the hardest things I do all year, as you can imagine,” Landers said. “They’re all doing things that are so, so advanced for what you would expect somebody that might be a young teen. They’re launching businesses, they’re looking at solving really big problems in our world.

“They’re taking things that are interests and aligning them with strengths that they already have, and figuring out how they can get solutions to marginalized communities, or how they can make navigating healthcare as somebody who is maybe an immigrant, or new to our community.”