Gina L. Myers knows what’s cooking. She is.
Myers, who graduated a semester early from Ferris High School this past December, has been cooking, literally and figuratively, most of her life – from actually creating in the kitchen to reaching forward with zest to the next thing in her life.
Always eager to get on with it, she skipped eighth grade, took honors classes as a freshman, Advanced Placement classes as a sophomore and senior classes her junior year, and spent fall term of her senior year studying in Costa Rica – all of which enabled her to graduate at 16.
Now 17, she’s enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. She studies, works out six times a week and travels into New York City on Saturdays to work at Iron Chef Marc Forgione’s restaurant.
“This kind of cooking is not a fun job if you don’t really, really love it – 12 to 14 hours a day, six days a week, while juggling six pans at a time and keeping ingredients in order,” said Myers on a recent visit home to Spokane. “It’s extremely hot, there’s fire, hot oil, and it’s so crazy when the orders come in.”
Always intrigued by how food is made, she loved eating, tasting, appreciating what she ate and savoring the flavors since she was about 8 and began watching TV’s Food Network. The family – physician father Paul, nurse mother Lori and older sisters Hannah, 19, and Cara, 21 – didn’t eat out often, mostly just on special occasions. When Myers’ birthday rolled around, she would always choose a restaurant where she knew she couldn’t cook the food better herself – often sushi or Moroccan – even as a young child.
When her mother developed breast cancer six years ago (she’s fine now), Myers, then 11, took over cooking for the family, including making homemade pasta. She volunteered as a freshman and sophomore at the weekly community dinners at Central Methodist Church, prepping food and then leaving to go home to do homework.
The family has traveled to Kenya and Zambia doing medical missionary work – experiences that gave Myers a larger world view and appreciation for the blessings of her life. “I think I live more aware now,” she said.
Although she could earn a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts and restaurant management at the Culinary Institute, Myers thinks she’ll opt for the two-year associate degree. At that point she’ll be 19 and probably will enroll at a university to study math and science, probably engineering, and still enjoy a traditional college experience. But she realizes she may be so immersed in the culinary world by then that she may want to continue with it.
“I always like doing something that has a purpose, and if I do that, I’m happy,” she said. “I always want to get on to the next thing. There is so much out there, and I want to have a full and adventurous life. I just can’t stop. I want to experience it all.”