Trailblazer in the Kitchen - Whitney Miller
Greenville, SC - At the age of 22, she was the youngest chef to win the coveted, Master Chef title on Fox TV’s season one. The diminutive Southern girl might appear to be a soft touch at first glance but Whitney Miller is tougher than she looks. And, determined.
The cooking bug bit early. By age 12, the young chef from Poplarville, Mississippi had cooked through an entire French cookbook. She mastered eclairs, tarts and other culinary treats that most are terrified to try, let alone alter, which she did. Soon, she was cooking for school functions, and even catered her own graduation party.
At 19, she was asked to cater her first wedding reception. Instead of being terrified she jumped at the challenge. “You have to be a risk taker, you can’t be afraid,” said Miller. The no holds barred chef has a special love for recreating vegetables using nontraditional methods. Creamed collard greens, carrot soufflé, cauliflower Mac’ n cheese are just some of her new twists on old favorites.
The wheels of destiny started turning during her senor year of college at Southern Mississippi when she saw auditions listed for Master Chef on a web site. With the clock ticking, Whitney went to work in the kitchen and turned out a roast celery root and cauliflower souffle topped by a roast with pan gravy and horseradish cream sauce. Within the month, a film crew was at her door. It was show time and Whitney proved fearless. With 50 other contestants she held her own in Los Angeles and endured the long days filled with auditions and cooking classes from 7 a.m. until often midnight. Until Master Chef, the young kitchen wizard had never fried an egg or cooked a breaded pork chop. She conquered both challenges.
Whitney’s final dish of fried catfish and sweet potatoes fries wowed the judges and clinched her position. In season two, the enamored Gordon Ramsay would have the contestants try to duplicate Whitney’s catfish and sweet potato fries as one of cooking challenges. She fooled everyone including Ramsey who initially thought she was too young for the Master Chef challenge but in the end the toughest chef on TV ate his words and Whitney’s food with gusto.
The “almost” dietitian is introducing a new generation to Southern cuisine and shattering myths along the way. By creating simple but sophisticated fare that not only tastes good and is healthy, Miller has conquered what only few hope to achieve. The trailblazer has also written her first cookbook, “Modern Hospitality” which shot to number one on Amazon in its first week. The motivated young woman plans to write another cookbook, mentor children who are budding chefs, and continue inspiring others to be all they can be. “I am living my dream,” she smiled. She is just getting started.
Cauliflower "Mac ‘n’ Cheese"
8 c. cauliflower florets (about 1 head)
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
2 tablespoon.unsalted butter
2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 ½ c. fat free milk
½ .c. heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese. Preheat over to 400. Toss cauliflower florets in oil on baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Roast until fork-tender and lightly browned in spots. 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven but leave the oven on and reduce to 350.
Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently, until thickened, 2 to 4 minutes. Whisk in the cream and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and stir in all but 2 tablespoons of the cheese, table salt, and remaining pepper. Stir until the cheese melts, then cook, stirring often until thickened, 8 to 10 minutes.Place cauliflower florets in 8 x 8 glass baking dish or four 10-oz. ramekins. Pour the cheese sauce on top. Sprinkle top of cauliflower with remaining 2 tablespoons cheese. Bake until cheese bubbles, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm.