Published: Aug 04, 2012 06:00 PM
Modified: Aug 03, 2012 04:32 PM
If sharing a love for cooking were an Olympic sport, Sydney McCoy of Apex would be going for the gold.
Recently, she was a guest on the “Rachael Ray” show, chatting and cooking “taco cakes” with the high-profile host. And last week she was in London, enjoying a front seat to the Olympic Games as one of 10 finalists nationwide in the McDonald’s Happy Meal Chefs contest.
She snagged both achievements by starring in homemade videos that show her cooking simple, healthy meals at home, something she thinks every kid ought to know how to do.
“A lot of kids, they’ll eat whatever their parents eat or they’ll always eat takeout,” said Sydney, 11, a rising sixth-grader at Salem Middle School. “No offense to them, but I think that’s a treat you can have every once in a while. You need to know how to eat right and be healthy.”
Sydney drives that point home with her YouTube show called “At Home With Sydney.” In new episodes every other week, she features her favorite foods and recipes and offers her tips on things as varied as container gardening and “The Hunger Games” movie.
Her poise in front of the camera comes through in her video entry for the Happy Meal Chefs contest as she talks about cooking with her dad.
“Today,” she says in the video, “we’re going to make a meal that brings out the kid in your parents” — “and the artist in your kid,” her dad, David, adds. Then they get to work making “happy-face burritos,” followed by a description of things the family does to make mealtime fun, like decorating the table, designating theme nights and sampling cuisine from “around the globe.”
At the Olympics, she was expected to meet athletes and attend volleyball and swimming events. She also visited the world’s largest McDonald’s (constructed just for the Olympics to seat 1,500 people) and, of course, did some cooking during her weeklong trip.
It was her first trip out of the country, and she’s eager to see the sights and try the food.
“One of my teachers just got back from London, and she said to try the fish and chips,” Sydney said.
London is a long way from the McDonald’s inside the Apex Walmart, where Sydney’s mom first heard about the Happy Meal Chefs contest shortly after Sydney filmed “Rachael Ray.”
“We’re addicted to contests,” admits Sydney, who recently appeared wearing an apron she made out of rice pouches in a video on the Uncle Ben’s website and has won more than 80 ribbons at the N.C. State Fair.
But cooking isn’t always about competition for her. Sometimes, it’s just fun – as long as she has plenty of space.
“It’s hard if you have a lot of people in the kitchen because then you can’t move around a lot,” she observed. “I don’t like to be smooshed up with everybody. But if there’s nobody around I’ll just kind of prance around the kitchen with my food and stuff.”
Amid softball, talent shows, volunteering and many other activities, Sydney’s used to having a full plate, and the pace will pick right back up when she returns from London. She’s planning some Olympic-themed “At Home With Sydney” shows, and there are more contest entries coming due in the fall.
But one thing on the to-do list is much more immediate:
“When I get back,” she said, “I have to go back to school.”