Chef Remmi student ambassador for food service Sodexo, is cooking her way to entrepreneurship

Posted: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 2:00 am | Updated: 10:27 am, Wed May 21, 2014.

By LAURIE WINSLOW World Business Writer | 

Fourteen-year-old Remmi Smith is a pint-sized powerhouse whose insatiable appetite for cooking has led to entrepreneurial endeavors and national notice.

She is proof positive that you don’t have to be an adult to pursue your passion.

One morning recently, this eighth-grade graduate of Marquette Catholic School carved out some time before heading to school to dish about her love for anything having to do with food. Decked out in a white chef’s hat and culinary clothes, she looked every bit the fun chef that she is.

“I just love food. I love learning about it. I love eating it. I love cooking it. I just love to try new foods. Really, my whole business started off the whole basis of the childhood obesity epidemic,” Remmi said.

“So I’m fighting, really, to try to stop that and get kids to eat healthier and find economically good and healthy and nutritious and delicious foods that they would like to try. That is one of the things that keeps me going.”

Food fascination

Remmi was about 4 when she started helping her mother in the kitchen with easy things such as washing fruits and vegetables. By age 7, she could make full meals.

“She and I work together really well,” said her mother, Nancy Smith. “That part of it is really fun. She is always testing and trying new recipes, so she brings new perspective in all the time.”

Remmi helps her mom fix dinner, trying out meals first on family, which includes seven children. Remmi is one of four girls adopted from China.

She’ll try any food and has eaten itmes such as eel and escargot. Although she wasn’t a big fan of mushrooms when she was younger, Remmi said she likes them more now.

Strawberries are her all-time favorite. Remmi calls strawberries “the most amazing food in the world” and eats them every day — literally. The longest she has gone without strawberries occurred one week over a spring break.

“I think being a chef is like being a food scientist because you get to experiment with a lot of great foods,” Remmi said.

This taste for food has turned into an entrepreneurial feast.

“She’s gone after her dream. And she’s not waiting until she’s 21. She’s going after it right now,” said her mother, who also is the executive producer of “Cook Time with Remmi.”

Remmi has had two cooking shows: an online show called “Cook Time with Remmi” and a spinoff show, “The Culinary Kid,” which for a couple of years appeared on Cox Cable.

They are now shopping around for a national show, her mother said.

Last year, her cookbook, “Global Cooking for Kids,” was published. The cookbook, which includes pictures, notes and brain teasers in addition to recipes, features meals from one country from each continent.

“Whenever I researched the book, it was like I was taking a journey throughout the world, but through food,” she said.

Remmi’s Italian salad dressing is sold at Whole Foods Market, Reasor’s and specialty stores.

What does she want to be when she grows up? A chef, of course.

Remmi would like to attend culinary school for the “credibility and credentials.” The teenager eventually wants to own a restaurant, create more cookbooks and have her own line of cookware.

“I have a ton of plans,” she said.

Nationwide notice

Remmi is a student ambassador for food service company Sodexo. Her mother said she collaborates with 500 chefs to make new recipes that kids would like.

Sodexo caters food in more than 4,000 schools across America using Remmi’s healthy recipes.

As a Sodexo ambassador, Remmi has traveled across the country, speaking about healthy eating and giving cooking demonstrations at places such as museums, botanical gardens and aquariums.

On average, she takes about two trips a month.

She also works with the Future Chefs program, has spoken at symposiums and conferences for the Independent Youth network, and is a teen mentor for Thrive15, which provides 15-minute, video-based edutainment and practical training for entrepreneurs.

Remmi’s youthful photo stands out in stark contrast to the 19 adult faces on the list of “20 People to Watch” selected by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibly as it honors and highlights people who make a difference.

Joining Remmi on the list are members of Congress, Olympians such as Apolo Ohno and attorneys general, among others.

Recipe for success

Public speaking doesn’t seem to faze this teen, who uses the word “bubbly” to describe herself. She has given a cooking demonstration before 100 members of Congress and spoken to the National School Board Association. The largest crowd she addressed had about 3,000 people.

“My mom does most of the worrying,” Remmi said. “I really am not nervous, but excited and anxious when speaking. I like talking to people.”

When it comes to entrepreneurial advice, Remmi has plenty of food for thought. She encourages anyone with a dream, regardless of age, to go “after it.”


only thing that keeps you from getting success is yourself,” she said. “If you don’t go after it, if you don’t take a step forward, you’re just taking two steps back because you’re not really doing anything. You just have a standstill. … You always need to really go for it. Worst-case scenario: It doesn’t work and you deal with failure, but failure is something you should work off of.”

Remmi also talks about the challenges of having a startup business, including marketing, developing a website, packaging, developing partnerships, etc.

“Starting a business has been like a roller coaster ride,” she said. “I mean, I’ve had my ups and downs. There are times when I have this amazing view, and there are times when you get rejected. … You have to learn from your failures and mistakes. It’s been a very bumpy roller coaster ride, but it’s all worth it.”

Remmi Smith

Age: 14

Grade: Just graduated from eighth grade and next year plans to attend Bishop Kelley High School

Hobbies: Loves to cook, but also enjoys reading, especially the Harry Potter series.

Favorite food: Strawberries

Family: She is one of seven siblings. Her family also has three dogs — two golden retrievers and one that is a border-collie mix.

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