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updated: 5/6/2014 1:46 PM

Cook of the Week: Teen cooks to lighten parents' load

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  • Christian Liberty Academy senior Tim Cruz eases his parents' load by getting dinner on the table a few days a week.

      Christian Liberty Academy senior Tim Cruz eases his parents' load by getting dinner on the table a few days a week.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

By Abby Scalf
Daily Herald Correspondent

One day, Tim Cruz may work as an IT coordinator by day and at night, run his own cafe.

The Des Plaines teen loves cooking just as much as he loves using technology and hopes to find a way to integrate the two.

For now, Tim cooks for his parents and classmates, who get to sample the lunches he brings, far from peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and an apple.

Tim recalls being 12 and his parents giving him the freedom to make his own meals. Meals back then were simple, such as eggs and toast. But as he got older, he became more adventurous.

"It's really cool they support me and my passion for cooking," he said.

In addition to the chance to be creative, Tim recognizes cooking brings people together. When he was younger he admits to eating quickly so he get back to private time, but today he appreciates time at the dinner table to talk about the day and laugh about the simple things.

"Food brings a group of people together and gets conversations started," he said. "Not only that, it gives me a chance to serve something I love, something I enjoy and share it with others."

Some of his favorite dishes are Italian, inspired by a family trip last year to Italy. He recalls the simplicity of a thin pizza crust topped with mozzarella cheese, sauce and basil, adding "assembling these simple ingredients together made it one of the best things I ever put in my mouth."

"Ever since we came back, I've been thinking about those dishes. I've tried to replicate it," he said, adding that a pasta maker is on his wish list. "Without using a pasta maker, I've tried making tortellini by hand and Bolognese sauce. It's not the same as when we went to Italy. At least, I tried."

Because his parents grew up eating foods from their native Phillipines, Tim said they still enjoy some traditional dishes in their house, but Tim says he leaves those dishes to the expert, his mom.

"She makes the best Filipino food that I can think of," he said.

Tim keeps as busy a schedule as his parents, serving on student council and running on the track team. Communication and planning are key in getting the family to the table.

"Every other day, one of us will cook depending on how busy our schedules are. I try to make my parents' life easier for them so they don't have to come home and worry about dinner," he said. "I like to do this for them."

Making healthy meals is important, too. They've substituted seafood and chicken for meats higher in saturated fats and experimented with coconut oil.

Bringing leftovers to school has brought Tim some attention at Christian Liberty Academy, where he's a senior. Friends often comment on his homemade paninis and pasta. Intrigued by the smells, friends inquire and Tim always offers a taste. It is that reaction, he said, that has him seeing restaurant ownership in his future.

"My friends are a big motivation for me to open my own place and to cook," he said. "The compliments motivate me."

In the meantime, Tim uses technology and photography, his other passions, to bring attention to food. Taking photos of dishes he makes, Tim posts them online and hopes to create a blog to show how easy cooking can be.

"I want to teach others," he says. "I want to show, 'Hey I'm a high school student and you can make this too if you put some heart and some effort into it.'"

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