Apex’s Next Cooking Star

If not for her pint-sized frame, you’d never know Apex native Sydney McCoy isn’t a seasoned master chef.

As she learns to make authentic New York-style bagels from Bruegger’s Bagels Executive Chef Philip Smith, she asks questions and soaks in the information as any professional chef learning a new skill would. The defining detail is that she’s only 11 years old.

Sydney is young, but she already has a strong foothold in the culinary world, and a dominant presence in the public eye.

Much of that is thanks to her mom, Hazel McCoy, who reaches out to the pros on behalf of her daughter’s budding talent.

“She’s a great role model that kids can relate to,” said McCoy. “She’s a natural in front of the camera. She’s not afraid to say, ‘Here’s an idea; let’s try it.’”

Bruegger’s Bagels asked Sydney to join Chef Smith in the kitchen to learn the art of bagel-making, and in addition she crafted bagel recipes to present with Smith for her Internet cooking channel.

She’s also cooked alongside celebrity chefs like Rachael Ray and Bobby Flay, and her award-winning recipes have been recognized by corporations like Uncle Ben’s rice and McDonald’s.

Her charisma has earned her live cooking demonstrations with Got to Be NC and Whole Foods, and her flair for the theatrical has made her YouTube channel, At Home with Sydney, a popular resource.

Sydney even has a mayor-appointed day named in her honor: June 2 is Sydney McCoy Day in Apex. It’s a nice addition to her numerous N.C. State Fair blue ribbons, television appearances and celebrity cooking demonstrations.

“I want to show kids that good food doesn’t have to be bad for you,” said Sydney. “And that kids can make it themselves and don’t have to rely on their parents or processed food.”

Cooking has always been a family affair for the McCoys, though Sydney is the first to catch public attention for her efforts.

“I would always be in the kitchen when I was little,” she said. “My mom and dad and my brother and sister all cook. Even when I was really little, I could stir the pancake mix or something.”

In no time, stirring pancake mix evolved to cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the family — turkey, sides and dessert.

Ask Sydney about her favorite thing to cook, and without hesitation she’ll tell you it’s crème brûlée. She even has the kitchen torch to perfect it.

Cooking experiences at home and with professional chefs, like above left with Bruegger’s Bagels Executive Chef Philip Smith, have encouraged Sydney to experiment with unique recipe combinations.

Outside of her bedroom, Sydney displays more than 100 N.C. State Fair ribbons won in categories like cooking, sewing and crafts.

She learned to make the custard confection working alongside Chef Walter Royal, executive chef of the Angus Barn and Pavilion. After cooking with Royal and learning everything from the salad line to the dessert line, Sydney cooked a holiday lunch for the Angus Barn owners and staff.

One part of creating her own recipes that Sydney enjoys is being able to dream up ideas that might be a little out of the ordinary.

“I like to think out of the box and come up with ideas that other people might not think of,” she said.

This creativity helped her clench the 2012 grand prize in Kiwi Magazine’s Next Great Young Chef contest. The contest asked entrants to create a recipe using specific sponsored ingredients — a vanilla extract, a sugar substitute and a coconut spread.

Sydney knew that with ingredients like those, most people would choose to make a dessert, or maybe a breakfast food. She wanted to do something unexpected.

Her creation? Marinated vanilla chicken and vegetable kabobs with coconut tropical rice.
“I just think of what flavors go together,” she said. “You know it’s right when you taste it.”

Back in the Bruegger’s kitchen beside Chef Smith, Sydney learns the proper technique for boiling the bagels and cooking them to be the perfect mix of soft and crunchy. Smith jokes that a true New York bagel should put up a fight when you bite into it.

Sydney asks a lot of questions as they go through the process, because she knows she still has a lot to learn.

But when the cooking lesson is over, Sydney leads Smith to a table prepared for her recipe demonstrations; instantly, her demeanor changes.

No longer full of questions, now she’s confident and ready to put on a show as she walks Smith through her recipe ideas for breakfast, lunch and snack bagels.

Sydney joked, “We’re on my turf, now.”
Learn more at sydneymccoy.com.

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