Grey Battle is quite accomplished for a 10-year-old.
This past summer, the Birmingham native was named Alabama’s winner of the 2014 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, an honor that earned her a trip to Washington D.C. to meet First Lady Michelle Obama and an entry in the contest cookbook.
Her recipe? Veggie Spaghetti with Alabama Gulf Shrimp.
Nowadays, her ahead-of-her-time culinary skills are being put to good use in her hometown. She recently did a cooking demo at Pepper Place with the help of her personal sous chef, James Beard winner Chris Hastings, and she’ll soon be traveling to schools throughout the city cooking healthy meals for her peers.
Since Grey is a fan of ours (and we’re certainly a big fans of hers), we had a conversation with her recently about her love of Alabama Gulf Seafood. Here’s what she had to say.
You’ve said that Alabama Gulf Shrimp is one of your favorite foods. When did you first try shrimp, and what made you think it’d be a good fit for this recipe?
I was so young I can hardly remember when I first tried shrimp. I’ve had shrimp fried, grilled, boiled, and blackened. My favorite, fried, is not that healthy though! I knew I needed some protein in my “veggie spaghetti.” My first thought was meatballs. But, I wanted something healthier, and my next thought was shrimp.
Since you’ve been cooking as long as you can remember, are there other Alabama Gulf Seafood products (fish, oysters, crabmeat, etc.) that you enjoy cooking with? And if so, what kind of seafood dishes have you tried and enjoyed?
Our family also loves oysters. Every Christmas Eve, I help my grandmother fry oysters and shrimp, which has been her family’s tradition for many years. We invite the whole family and have a big seafood dinner. We also love to eat crab claws and crab cakes. I also like my dad’s grilled grouper.
The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge is, of course, about healthy eating. And Alabama Gulf Seafood, depending on how you cook it, has many health benefits. Do the health benefits of Gulf Seafood make it a more attractive dish in your opinion?
Of course, I love that seafood is a healthy choice found right here in Alabama. But, more than that, I think seafood looks yummy. Even to someone who hasn’t tried it, seafood is very eye-catching. In my opinion, it looks beautiful on a plate. It’s just more interesting to me.
You’ve been doing cooking demos alongside Chef Chris Hastings recently. What’s it like to cook alongside a James Beard Award-winning celebrity chef like Chris?
Incredible. It feels pretty cool having a sous chef, especially Chef Hastings! His awards made it really funny when I bossed him around at the Pepper Place demonstration. Honestly, I was just really nervous. I first saw him beat Bobby Flay on Iron Chef and was an instant fan. He’s even better in person. He’s been so nice to my family and I would recommend his restaurant, Hot and Hot Fish Club (which includes a lot of great Alabama Gulf Seafood dishes), to everyone. I’ll be doing the rest of my demonstrations at schools around Birmingham—hopefully I can do more around town with Chef Hastings because he’s really fun.
You’ve said that you wanted to use a food product that is “really, really Alabama” in your dish. Since Alabama has a pretty small coastline, lots of people throughout the country might not see us as a seafood destination. What would you say to someone who hasn’t tried Alabama Gulf Seafood?
I would say that it’s my second favorite food (chocolate’s my first). Most any Alabama Gulf Seafood is really good—you can’t really go wrong. I’ve never met a person who’s not liked seafood because it can be prepared so many ways. I also think you should try new things (except worms—long story!). I’ve been surprised at the things I’ve liked and I never would have known it if I hadn’t tried them.