Kale chips? Spinach smoothies? Child chef makes healthy cooking fun

SEATTLE - Can you imagine convincing a child to drink spinach smoothies or dine on kale chips? Well, a local girl is hoping to win an international video contest by teaching kids how to cook these and other healthy foods.

Amber Kelley, a 10-year-old from Woodinville, is a finalist in Jamie Oliver's "Food Tube" challenge, a national contest searching for a cooking star.

Contestants could feature any recipe, but Amber has focused on teaching her peers to cook foods that are both healthy and tasty.

With dad manning the grill, mom behind the camera, and little sister Lexi ready to taste test anything that hits her plate, Amber cheerfully demonstrates how to make teriyaki chicken lettuce wraps in her video entry.

Out of all the entries, Amber was selected as one of five finalists by Oliver, a star chef who has gained notoriety on shows such as "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution." She is the only child included among the finalists and the only one from the U.S.

"He is so awesome," Amber says. "It was really cool just to have him see me!"

If Amber wins the "Food Tube" challenge she will be awarded professional video equipment, mentoring from a production team and a featured spot on Oliver's online cooking channel.

"That mentoring would be exactly what we need," Amber's mom Yohko Kelley says.

Amber first learned about cooking from her mom who gratefully accepted her daughter's help in the kitchen from a young age. Both of Amber's parents were wellness coaches until recently, so she is constantly learning the importance of a healthy diet.

"It was very natural for her to do that type of cooking," Yohko says.

Amber has been preparing meals and coming up with recipes on her own for years, Yohko says.

She makes green smoothies, salads and is currently working on a healthier cupcake recipe.

"I love cooking," Amber says. "It's like an experiment that you get to taste. It's your very own thing you can be proud of."

In the last year, Amber has shared her passion for cooking in an online show she created. With more than 50 episodes under her belt, she's teaching kids how to make meals that are tasty, health and fun.

"It's really a cooking show by kids for kids," Yohko says. "It's all about how cool, easy and fun it is to be healthy."

So we asked Amber, what makes a food healthy?

"Health foods are vegetables and fruit and anything that makes you feel strong and good and will help you do good in sports and school," she says.

Amber's show has gained national attention. She won the national Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, in which one student from each state was invited to a state dinner at the White House. Amber was even selected to dine next to first lady Michelle Obama.

"It's so amazing," Amber says. "I'm stunned. I really only thought our family would watch it but now all these people all over the world see it."

Mary Jones Verbovski, a pediatric dietician at Seattle Children's Hospital, said teaching kids how to cook is a great way to encourage healthy eating.

"[Cooking] gives children a sense of empowerment and value to build skills with food and to impact family dynamics by contributing," she said. "They can help drive menus and are often more likely to eat a variety when they are part of the decision making."

Verbovski encourages Amber to keep teaching the basics and reassure her audience that kitchen mistakes happen.

"It always looks easier in a show than in real life," she said. "Have her model not getting discouraged if recipes don't turn out beautifully. Help kids feel like they can try again next time with positive messaging so they don't give up!"

You can vote for Amber's video (below) in the "Food Tube" challenge by liking it on YouTube until Sept. 22.