Arlington Teen Cultivates Foodie Following
Looking for seasonal recipes? Follow Stephanie Ortiz's flavorful blog.
THERE'S NO SHORTAGE of advice on how to encourage young people to eat healthy—but not much of it comes from young people themselves.
Food blogger Stephanie Ortiz, a rising junior at Washington-Lee High School, is the exception. Not only is she spreading the gospel of healthy (mainly vegetarian) eating, but as the daughter of a Salvadoran father and French mother, she’s also out to introduce internationally inspired cooking at home.
Self-portrait by Stephanie Ortiz.
“My dad has always said, ‘Food is never disgusting, it’s just not to your taste,’ ” says the 16-year-old Westover resident, who is forever experimenting in the kitchen. “That’s one thing I take into consideration—there’s always a way to make it appealing to you.”
Ortiz’s interest in healthy eating arose five years ago, when a friend was diagnosed as gluten-intolerant. As she helped her friend research recipes using alternatives to wheat flour, she kept the search going for a better diet in general. That mission, combined with her family’s frequent travel, dovetailed into the theme for her blog, International Palate (internationalpalate.wordpress.com), which she launched last year.
Stephanie Ortiz's beet pizza. Photo by Stephanie Ortiz.
Most of the recipes on the blog—Ortiz posts twice a week and shoots her own photos—are interwoven with personal stories. In one, the young chef describes how her own version of the classic French madeleine emerged after a visit to her grandmother in Alsace. In another, she talks about how she and her family assuaged their chocolate addiction by researching options for chocolate mousse made with avocado instead of heavy cream—a recipe she now hands out to friends at school.
“I’m not only benefiting myself,” she says, “I’m also trying to promote healthy eating and healthy foods to a younger generation.”
Ortiz's spring asparagus salad with red onions, sun dried tomatoes and capers. Photo by Stephanie Ortiz.
Still, members of Ortiz’s generation aren’t the only ones taking note. Her neighbor, Greg Rusk, who runs the website for the Westover Farmers Market, recently signed her on to create a weekly recipe showcasing whatever is fresh and in season at the market.
“Farmers Market Friday” posts have included creations ranging from ramp frittata to beet pizza—the latter inspired, in part, by the teen’s recent trip to France, where she enjoyed baguettes smeared with beet purée and goat cheese. “She’s pretty fearless in putting recipes together,” Rusk says, “and they seem to be well-structured and appetizing.”