Around Town: cooking up a win; world record attempt


In this week's Around Town column, find out how a local girl performed on the Food Network's "Chopped Junior," a teen who set out to make history on the tennis court and a proposed law on flavored tobacco.

COOKING UP A WIN ... Terman Middle School seventh-grader Anna Ghai made her television debut on the Food Network's "Chopped Junior," where she dominated the competition in an episode that aired Tuesday. The 30-minute time limit for each round was stressful, but she worked her way through each dish with a smile on her face, which brightened up the kitchen and screens. The 12-year-old was up for the Caribbean-themed challenges with "wacky" ingredients. Her monkfish salad with a dijon vinaigrette and grilled papaya was a favorite among the three-judge panel. Anna definitely felt the time crunch during the entree round when she delivered a seared red snapper with mango and coconut cream puree, but the showstopper was her clafoutis, a baked French dessert, made of kiwi and guava with a lime cookie crumble. The experience "was more fun than stressful," she said. She won $10,000 and the coveted Chopped Junior chef coat that's yet to come in the mail since the show was filmed last November. She's had a hard time keeping her win a secret until now. Her appearance gained so much buzz that her school held an assembly Wednesday to air the episode for her peers. Her family’s also planning a watch party for her friends this weekend. Anna was well prepared for the competition through trial runs with her mother, Maria Orvell, who prepared baskets filled with mystery ingredients she turned into dishes. They also closely watched previous episodes of the show. Orvell, who introduced Anna to cooking through baking, is now learning techniques from her youngest daughter, such as whisking whipped cream by hand rather than with a mixer. "It's amazing how much she's improved," Orvell said. The family's international travels trying different cuisines (this past summer she visited France, England and Germany) also gave her a leg up over the three other challengers. She's interested in learning more about French dishes, but is also curious about the art of Japanese cuisine. Anna, who started cooking at 5 years old, has composition books documenting her recipes, including some based on food she's tasted. The young chef, who never dreamed of making it on the show, let alone becoming the champion, aspires to host her own Food Network show that will take her on more delicious trips around the world.

WORLD RECORD ATTEMPT ... Nicolas Federici's attempt at adding his name to the Guinness Book of World Records didn't go exactly as planned, but he hopes to try again. The 13-year-old wants to be known as the person who bounced the most tennis balls in a racket. The current world record for longest tennis racket and ball control duration was set by Aswin Sridhar in India at four hours and 30 minutes in May. Another person in Florida nearly doubled the record since then at seven hours, but the number hasn't been verified by Guinness, according to his father, Andrew Federici. Nicolas wanted to go a different direction by focusing on the number of tennis balls bounced in a racket as opposed to duration. The teen was hopeful — he had practiced enough times and made thousands of bounces in one standing. After waiting six months to get his application approved by the company, Nicolas and Andrew spent Sunday at Rinconada Park's tennis courts to make the vision a reality. They warmed up by playing tennis for about 30 minutes then secluded themselves to a corner of the court for the main event, but stage fright got the best of Nicolas. "I think we're going to try another attempt at some point, but we're also concerned about injuries," Andrew Federici said.

ILLICIT FLAVOR ... It is a human right for someone to do things that are stupid and dangerous only to themselves. So said Councilman Cory Wolbach during the Sept. 18 meeting in explaining his opposition to a new ordinance that prohibits flavored tobacco and requires all tobacco retailers to obtain permits. Wolbach is no friend of Big Tobacco. As chair of the council's Policy and Services Committee he supported prior laws to restrict smoking, including a recently passed ordinance that banned the activities at apartment buildings and condominiums. Wolbach also agrees with the rest of the council that smoking should be regulated. "But we're in danger of getting to a point where the regulations become so prohibitive of the activity that we are prohibiting people from doing things that are stupid and dangerous only to themselves," he said at the Sept. 18 meeting, moments after the rest of his colleagues voted (with Councilwoman Lydia Kou absent) to support the new law.


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