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Let’s Get Cooking…with
Deja from Virginia!

March 5, 2009  • 

Check out our interview with a supercool kid who really knows how to get cooking!

Last spring, 11-year-old Deja found out that she was selected to attend the Junior Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference and Inauguration in Washington, DC. However, she didn’t have $2,400 that she needed to get there and attend. Since she loves to cook, she decided to collect her favorite recipes from family and friends and compiled 150 of them into a cookbook. She wanted these recipes to be kid-friendly and require minimal adult supervision so that kids would feel empowered in the kitchen. With the help of her mom, Deja set out after school and on weekends and went door-to-door to sell her cookbook, as well as to her local churches, shopping malls and drugstores. After reaching her goal of selling over 200 cookbooks, she was thrilled to be able to attend the Presidential Inauguration and the Youth Inaugural Conference!

Why did you start cooking in the kitchen?
During Thanksgiving, my parents were always rushing around. I started helping them out and it made me want to cook more. I volunteered to help and started by doing little tasks. After that, it made me want to cook more.

How old were you when you started cooking?
I was 8 years old.

What is your favorite thing to make in the kitchen?
My favorite recipe is "Chip Chicken" – it’s really neat because instead of frying it, you bake it. Basically, you take your favorite chips, crumble them up, coat the chicken with them and bake it. I don’t love potato chips, but when I make it, I use barbecue chips or plain chips.

If every kid started cooking in the kitchen, what would that look like to you?
It would be really good. I think kids need to try new things. Cooking makes kids feel proud of what they’re doing. It’s good to see children starting to cook and helping out in their family, too.

Would you share the recipe for Chip Chicken with us?
Yes, I’d love to share it! This recipe serves four people.


  • 1 1/4 cups chicken tenders

  • 3/4 cup Italian salad dressing

  • Plain potato chips (several handfuls)

  • Barbecue-flavor potato chips (several handfuls)

  • Ranch salad dressing


  1. Place the chicken tenders in a large sealable plastic bag. Pour the Italian salad dressing over the chicken. Place the chicken in the refrigerator and marinate for 1 hour. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling the raw chicken.
  2. While the chicken is marinating, pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and set aside.
  3. Place several handfuls of the plain potato chips into another sealable plastic bag. Using a rolling pin, crush the chips into very small pieces, enough to measure 1 cup. Place the chips in a shallow bowl and set aside. Next, place several handfuls of the barbecue-flavor potato chips in another sealable plastic bag. Using a rolling pin, crush the chips into very small pieces, enough to measure 1 cup. Place the chips in another shallow bowl and set aside.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken from marinade. Place the chicken tenders on a large plate. Discard the marinade.
  5. Working with one chicken tender at a time, press half of the chicken tenders into the plain potato chips, coating both sides. Press the other half of the tenders into the barbecue-flavor potato chips, coating both sides.
  6. Arrange the chicken tenders on the prepared baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the pre-heated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. Wash your hands again after handling the raw chicken.
  7. Using oven mitts, remove the chicken tenders from the oven. Cool for 5 minutes. Serve with ranch dressing alongside.