Good cooking doesn't always run in the family, but in the Gerasole household in Evanston, it's so good it's become a business. Isabella, 11, and Olivia, 8, who have been cooking for three years, have filmed 38 shows for their Web-based cooking show, www.spatulatta.com. They have also appeared on "The Tonight Show" and won the James Beard Foundation/Viking Range Broadcast Media Award in the Web cast category.
The show was born about a year and a half ago, when their father, Vince Gerasole, a newscaster on Channel 2, was approached by their neighbor, Gaylon Emerzian. Knowing the family's love of cooking, she proposed doing a cooking show with the girls.
Olivia has acquired the nickname "Miss Mess" from her kitchen antics. "One time I was trying to crack an egg into a big bowl," she says. "I'm shaking the egg and I got frustrated and squeezed it and it went all over my face, all over my clothes and all over the kitchen."
The girls run the cooking show with a little direction from Emerzian, the show's producer. The girls shot a recent night's episode separately. Isabella-or Belle to her friends and family-had play practice that night and had to leave during her sister's portion of the show. Olivia did her homework while her sister filmed and came into the kitchen to enjoy the fruits of her sister's labors before filming her own portion.
But the kitchen is not always fun for Miss Mess. She has found difficulty in cooking sometimes, especially with Irish Soda Bread. "I'm very short and need a stool and couldn't get enough leverage to beat [the bread batter]," says Olivia. "It gets frustrating sometimes, but oh well. Maybe some day I'll grow up to be tall." The wear on Olivia's Beatrix Potter stool attests to its constant use.
Belle sees cooking as an art. "It can teach you a lot about different cultures," says the fifth-grader. "It is a lot of fun to cook and eat afterwards."
Eventually, Belle wants to write and perform; perhaps publish a novel or two. Broadway is definitely a possibility. After filming her segment, Belle left for play practice, with food in tow-she had cooked a traditional Italian dish for one of the boys in her play.
The girls are coming out with their own cookbook next fall and are always looking for new recipes and people to cook with. For these two young cooks, the goal is to show other kids "cooking is not a chore," Olivia says.
Olivia "Miss Mess" Favorite food: Ravioli stuffed with cheese Favorite animals: Dogs and owls Weird talent: I'm really flexible. Hobbies: Ice skating and piano
Belle Favorite foods: Any kind of pasta. I really like bread, the fresh French baguettes from the bakery. Favorite animal: A stag or an owl and of course, I love dogs. Weird talent: I can cross my eyeballs. Hobbies: Performing on stage