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Teen gets dream: She cooks with Rachael Ray

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. -- Chloe Langis is just 15, but she's loved to cook for as long as she can remember. As a little girl, she followed her grandma Francine Langis around the restaurant she owned, helping her prepare meals for customers. "I rem...

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. -- Chloe Langis is just 15, but she's loved to cook for as long as she can remember.

As a little girl, she followed her grandma Francine Langis around the restaurant she owned, helping her prepare meals for customers.

"I remember getting so mad. Because she could do everything perfect, and my little hands just couldn't do it the same way sometimes."

At an age when other kids were locked on Disney Channel or Nickelodeon, Chloe clicked her way to the Food Network where she obsessively watched her idol Rachael Ray.

"I just love her bubbly personality and how she's an All-American girl," the Garden Grove, Calif., teen says. "Even if she makes a mistake, she just laughs it off."

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But the true measure of the kid's connection to the kitchen is revealed when she says this: "I'm too young to get a job, but I'm working in the cafeteria, in the kitchen at my church, and the snack bar at my brother's baseball team."

Wait a minute _ the high school cafeteria? As in, you're a

freshman AND a junior lunch lady?

"I know," she giggles. "I give food, take money and wear a hairnet. It's really embarrassing. But all the lunch ladies are really nice!"

So it won't surprise you now to learn that a year or two ago, when other kids were send-ing fan mail to Zac Efron or Vanessa Hudgens, Chloe wrote Ray at her daytime talk show in New York City.

"I thought maybe they'd give me tickets to be in the audience," she says. "I told them about my grandmother, and how she was sick, and maybe to see if there were any teen-age chef opportunities."

And heard nothing for so many months that she figured she never would.

Until one day in March, after school, the phone rang. A voice was on the line, saying, "This is Melissa from "The Rachael Ray Show'...."

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To which Chloe said: "April?"

"I thought it was my best friend playing a prank on me," Chloe explains. "And she said it again and I knew it was real. And then I started hyperventilating.

"She was like, 'Just calm down,' and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I can't believe this is hap-pening to me!'"

Two hours later, Chloe and the woman from Rachael Ray _

Melissa Brescia, a creative production assistant _ finally hung up the

phone.

Though Chloe wasn't told all the details at first, the deal was this: Ray wanted five teen chefs to help Michael Symon, the Iron Chef on the Food Network, run a restaurant for one night. The event would be shown later on "The Rachael Ray Show."

Cafe Una Notte _ Cafe One Night _ would use teen chefs and

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celebrity guests to promote Yum-o!, Ray's nonprofit organization that works to promote healthy eating for kids, and includes former President Bill Clinton as a partner.

And Chloe could be part of it, if she passed her screen test, a homemade video.

"What I did was I talked about myself, and I was in the

kitchen," she says. "It was extremely scripted _ 'Hello, my name is

Chloe!' Almost like a robot. It was really funny. And I cooked some tortilla soup."

Her mother, Sunday Sagmit, and stepdad, Ron Sagmit, were up until 4 a.m. finishing the video. A few days later, Brescia called back and said that was fine, but too scripted. Could she do it again, but this time relax?

So Chloe sat down in front of the camera and had her boyfriend, Bryan Detarr, tape her talking.

"I just spoke straight from the heart," she says, "and talked about Rachael and how much she means to me, and talked about my grandma and how much she means to me.

"And I made tortilla soup again."

Two weeks passed with no response.

"And I was just devastated," Chloe says. "I always think the worst!"

It was over, she thought. Hadn't made the cut. And then one day during her spring break from Pacifica High School, her stepdad poked his head into her room and told she needed to wake up.

"He said, 'This may be the best day of your life, you better get up,'" Chloe says. "And Melissa was on the phone, saying, 'Congratulations, Chloe, we picked you!'

"Basically all they told me was to really practice my cooking skills and get ready to go to New York City. And there was a big surprise, but they didn't tell me what."

To understand how big a deal this was, you need to know that cooking wasn't Chloe's only passion. She loves to act too, and her dream job is to have a cooking show for kids. Which pretty much loomed before her now.

In mid-April, Chloe and her mom flew to New York City for the first visit, meeting Ray, the other teen chefs, and Symon. The big surprise only revealed itself as the teen chefs rode in a limousine and a videotape from Ray came on.

"She says, 'Hi kids, you thought you were just coming to meet me, but you're actually going to be running a restaurant.

"We all just started crying. We were so overwhelmed and so shocked.

"And when we heard Bill Clinton was going to be there, we were like, 'Oh. My. God.'"

Two weeks later, after returning home, where a camera crew showed up at Pacifica one day and made her an instant celebrity, Chloe and her mom returned to New York City for the event held on April 28.

"We were all in charge of prep work," Chloe says of the work they did that day. "Mostly we did the plating of the food. We were busting our butts."

As for the menu, at the time Chloe spoke about her adventure she was still under orders not to reveal the dishes dined upon by guests such as Clinton, talk show host Larry King and celebrity chefs Bobby Flay and Mario Batali.

Later, a spokeswoman for Ray let us know that the courses

included tasty treats such as crab parfait with tortilla chips,

sheep's milk ricotta ravioli with brown butter and black truffle,

halibut with fava beans, peas, lobster and dill. Dessert was a special

presentation by the teen chefs _ fresh sorbets, gelatos and berries.

After prepping the meals, Chloe and her partners walked the arrival carpet clad in their bright orange chef coats, conducting interviews with Ray. Back in the kitchen, they met Clinton and his security detail, a moment that left her awed days later.

"When he looks at you, he literally looks through your soul. When he shakes your hand, he holds it for like 20 seconds. He said, 'Hi, I'm Bill Clinton,' and I was like, 'Oh, wow!'"

The rest of the trip flew by in a blur. She remembers dancing with the other teens in the open kitchen as Carly Simon sang for the guests, appearing on "Good Morning America" the morning after.

And then home to her normal life as a high school kid, still too young to get a job in a nice restaurant (though if anyone needs a young chef with some serious culinary chops, Chloe wants to hear from you.)

"I'm like a sad little animal," she says of the letdown that came after the whirlwind of ex-citement in New York. "I want to get a job besides slinging Chilly Billy's across the snack shop window and giving kids hotdogs on a stick."

The episode with Chloe and Cafe Una Notte aired May 7, though Chloe says she won't get to see it until after school lets out.

"I wake up every day _ I know it sounds corny _ but I do

pinch myself," she says. "Because I can't believe it's true.

"I'm loving life. It's an adventure every day."

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YUM-O! RECIPE

"Yum-o! The Family Cookbook" is the latest cookbook from talk-show host Rachael Ray. In it, she focuses on family-friendly meals that kids will eat and in many cases can make themselves. Part of the book includes recipes submitted by children, including this one from 12-year-old Laila El Hasan of Laguna Niguel, Calif.

PANCAKE TACOS WITH FRUIT SALSA

1 cup of blueberries

1 cup of sliced strawberries

1 cup of blackberries

1 cup of sliced kiwi

1 cup of raspberries

1 package of pancake mix

1 large egg

1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

1 cup of milk

2 cup of any flavor pancake syrup

In a medium bowl, mix the blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, kiwi and raspberries and set aside. This will be the "fruit salsa."

Prepare the pancake batter according to directions on the pancake mix box. After the pan has been heated, pour enough batter to make a large pancake. After the pancakes have been prepared place ½ cup of "fruit salsa" in the center of the pancake and fold over. Top with warmed syrup, if you wish, and enjoy!

Yield: 4-6 servings

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