Simone, Bethany and the First LadyOn August 20, 2012, the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, hosted the first ever Kids’ State Dinner with each of the 50 U.S. states represented by a child and their winning recipe. This year, our very own Bethany Brady Spalding’s daughter, Simone, submitted a recipe to the contest and was selected to represent the Commonwealth of Virginia.

I had the opportunity to ask Simone what it’s like to be a celebrity and she gave us some really thoughtful answers! Simone’s recipe, Rainbow Chili, is a new favorite around our office and at my house now too! As our own Executive Director, Mary Dunne Stewart, put it, “is it wrong to be this jealous of a 2nd grader?” In this case, no way! What an experience and what a great story Simone has to tell about her relationship with cooking and how she came to be Virginia’s top chef… 

Kids' State Dinner with the SpaldingsSimone, you have done something pretty fabulous this year, you have submitted a winning recipe at the Kid’s State Dinner. What inspired you to submit a recipe?

I love to cook and if there was any way that a recipe was going to get me into the White House to meet Mrs. Obama—I wanted to try!

Describe what it’s like to eat a meal at the White House with the President and First Lady with recipes that kids, just like you, have written. 

I felt really lucky to be there.  The White House was so fancy with beautiful decorations.  And the food was really creative.  It was fun to meet kids from all around the country who invented the recipes.  But most of all, I liked meeting the President and Ms. Obama.  I got a big hug from Mrs. Obama and President Obama gave me a fist bump.  They were proud of us for earning a trip to the White House.

How did you come up with the idea for your recipe? Is it something you make at home frequently?

Our family likes to make one pot meals—everything in together and it’s easy and delicious.  And since my birthday is in December, I really like winter, so I like to make soup.  I wanted to make a soup that had all of the colors of the rainbow, so that kids could eat lots of healthy vegetables.

What are your favorite ingredients to cook with and which ingredients are your least favorite?

These are my favorite: lentils, garbanzo beans, couscous, and sweet potatoes.  And I really like to mix spices.  I have a whole cupboard of spices.  There aren’t many foods that I don’t like, but one that I don’t like yet is eggplant.

Who and/or what has inspired you to cook?

My mom, because she’s such a good cook, and I like being in the kitchen with her. When I was little, I lived in India and I started eating really interesting food. And ever since then, I’ve always liked cooking.

Do you cook at home?

If I’m not busy playing or doing homework, I like to help with dinner every night.  Sometimes I ask my mom to make a certain recipe.  My favorite part is sautéing the vegetables and measuring out ingredients.  I also like to set the table and arrange food on plates to make it look fun and beautiful.

Note: Looking to cook at home read this NPR article for a little motivation.

What’s next… will there be more recipes or more exploration in the kitchen? Favorite recipe you’re working on at home?

After my trip to the White House, I’ve been learning about super foods.  Last night, we made up a dish called Cabin Kale Cous Cous bowls with cumin and a drizzle of real maple syrup.  It was delicious.  I always want to keep exploring in the kitchen.

If you decide to test Simone’s fabulous recipe share it with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @GR_Fit4Kids!