Like most 16-year-olds, Emily and Lyla Allen keep busy. But unlike most teens, they don’t mind capping off a full day of school, SAT prep and field-hockey practice with making dinner for their parents.
“They’re happy to let us cook,” says Emily, better known to food aficionados as half of the Kitchen Twins. “They get to eat good food.”
So good, in fact, that Rachael Ray has had them cook on her show. So good that the Lawrenceville natives have their own cookbook: The Teen Kitchen (Ten Speed Press), 70 mostly vegetarian recipes for anyone who feels the urge to cook. Dishes range from grilled PB&J sandwiches to cauliflower-truffle lasagna.
“Since we were the littlest kids,” says Emily, “we have love-love-loved anything involving food and cooking.”
Their parents, Brian and Cricket Allen, are former natural-food entrepreneurs. “They were in the kitchen a lot when we were little,” says Lyla. “Emily and I decided we didn’t want to be the taste testers. We wanted to be the taste masters.”
With their parents as supervisors, “we learned our way around the kitchen and became a team fast,” Emily says. “Now,” adds Lyla, “our parents basically stand back and cheer us on.”
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In fourth grade, they won a local Shark Tank–like competition at Lawrenceville High School with a kit for make-your-own kale chips. With Brian and Cricket’s help, the kit ended up on the shelves of several Whole Foods stores in New Jersey.
Brian set up a Kitchen Twins website, which they now maintain, snapping photos of new recipes and writing posts on their commute to school in Buffalo, New York, where the family recently moved for Brian’s new job in insurance.
When they were 11, with more help from Dad, they filmed a cooking demo in their Lawrenceville kitchen. “I think we made broccoli stars and cheese crisps,” Lyla says. The family thought the video had TV potential and suspected Rachael Ray’s production team might like it, too. They were right; Ray’s team invited them on the show in 2016. They’ve since made about seven more, the latest last month.
“It’s been great to cultivate a relationship with her,” says Emily. Through a family friend, they have also rubbed elbows with Marcus Samuelsson and Chloe Coscarelli, a vegan chef and author both twins look up to.
Emily and Lyla are not vegans, though both stopped eating meat when they were six and fell in love with a cow named Molly on a field trip to a Mercer County farm. In the cookbook, organized with help from an editor, “we include substitutions for people who may want chicken instead of tofu in certain recipes,” Lyla explains. Dairy- and gluten-free readers are likewise considered, with ingredient swaps like almond milk and oat flour.
In addition to cooking, the twins play field hockey and lacrosse together. But that doesn’t mean they agree on everything. For example, “Lyla likes sauerkraut and I don’t,” says Emily. “One time we were making noodles, and she added a little, and I was like, Why did you put that in? You know I don’t like it. But we get over stuff like that quickly.”
Adds Lyla: “Mistakes just make you grow as a person. Ours are what has given us our confidence.”Click here to leave a comment