Student Features

Isaiah, 12, competes on ‘Chopped Junior’ cooking show

Apr 29, 2016

PA Cyber seventh grader Isaiah Hooks got hooked on cooking when he was 10. Now he’s a guest chef on the cable TV food show, “Chopped Junior.”

Isaiah will be one of four young chefs competing for prize money and culinary glory in a segment scheduled to air May 10 on “Chopped Junior,” a show featuring cooks aged 9-15. It’s a spinoff of the popular “Chopped” show on the Food Network channel.

A panel of judges will determine whether Isaiah gets “chopped” or moves on to the next rounds, where a $10,000 cash prize awaits the ultimate series winner.

Isaiah asked his parents if he could try out for the show after seeing it promoted on the Food Network. He posted an audition video, then was called in for a series of interviews with Food Network producers in New York City, in which he had to demonstrate his abilities as a chef. The segment to be aired on May 10 was taped back in February.

“I love to cook but he has surpassed me,” said his mother, Pastor Sherrise Hooks. “One day when he was 10 and a half I asked him to watch some spaghetti sauce I was cooking, and put something in it, onions or something. From that one experience I created this monster chef.”

She said from then on, when her youngest of three sons is either watching a cooking show on TV or whipping up something in the kitchen when he’s not in school.

“He is into anything gourmet,” said Pastor Hooks. “If it’s something plain, he takes it to the next level. It has to be over the top.”

Isaiah recently started his own small catering business, preparing dinner for a couple celebrating their wedding anniversary, and tea party finger foods for a ladies’ group at the church where his mother pastors, the Redeemed in Christ Ministries.

“The benefit of PA Cyber is of him being home. That freedom has allowed him to cook, allowed him to create and find his passion,” his mother said. “Whenever he has a break from classes, he’s back in the kitchen.”

The family lives in the town of Sciota, located in the Poconos region of northeastern Pennsylvania.

Pastor Hooks and her husband, Albert, a longshoreman, have two older sons, Alreese, 19, and Aaron, 18. Alreese was graduated from PA Cyber last year. Aaron was in PA Cyber, but went back to their local school for sports this year as a senior.

“Isaiah has been in PA Cyber since kindergarten,” said Pastor Hooks. “I was always a stickler for learning with all of my children. Isaiah went to the local school for kindergarten and was frustrated. He was reading, when the other kids were just learning their letters. His teacher said, even when I give him extra work he’s done before everyone else.”

His mom tried to put Isaiah back into the local school once because her work schedule changed, but he begged to return, and halfway through third grade he returned to PA Cyber.

Isaiah said he already has his life’s work laid out: “I have a business right now with catering, and I’m focused on that, but I want to be a chef and have a restaurant. And continue with my catering.”

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About PA Cyber

Serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber) is one of the largest, most experienced, and most successful online public schools in the nation. PA Cyber's online learning environments, personalized instructional methods, and choices of curricula connect Pennsylvania students and their families with state-certified and highly-qualified teachers, and rich academic content that is aligned to state standards. Founded in 2000, PA Cyber is headquartered in Midland (Beaver County) and maintains a network of support offices throughout the state. As a public school, PA Cyber is open for enrollment by any school-age child residing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and does not charge tuition to students or families.