Tyler Cordova is an expert on many things. He can give you the stats on any UCLA sports team. He can tell you where the best butcher shops are in Los Angeles. At a recent photo session, he even engaged the photographer in a conversation comparing specs of the new Nikon D4 camera.
If you need any travel tips in Italy, he’s got that covered as well. He recently returned from a family vacation to Rome and Venice where he took in the sights – The Vatican, all that Venice has to offer and daily walking tours – and he’s more than willing to offer suggestions about what to see and do there.
But his passion is cooking. And he discovered it during treatment for cancer, which began when he was 4. Tyler is now 11 – and a brilliant chef.
In 2007, at the age of 4, Tyler was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Despite an initial remission, Tyler experienced multiple relapses and a long road that included a bone marrow transplant at City of Hope in 2009, radiation, chemotherapy and multiple surgeries. It’s been a long journey, but he’s persevered. The recent trip abroad and the busy sight-seeing activities were an especially important milestone, as a few years ago none of that would have been possible. Tyler recently celebrated four years of being cancer-free.
During one very tough time in his treatment, Tyler stayed in the pediatrics unit for 80 days straight. Not able to move from bed and receiving his nutrition intravenously, one thing remained constant – watching Food Network. Tyler watched Giada De Laurentiis make classic Italian dishes and Bobby Flay work his magic on the grill. His parents said he would watch the cooking shows and talk about all the different things he wanted to cook and eat when he got home. That’s one of the shinning qualities of Tyler, his positive spirit. He’s always looking ahead, no matter what reality he’s been dealt. When Tyler did go home from the hospital, his cooking adventures began.
Since then, Tyler has compiled a book of his recipes, appropriately titled “Savoring Life.” Don’t expect grilled cheese and chicken nuggets from this kid. Tyler makes an array of culinary delights – bison dumplings, seafood-stuffed red snapper and Taj Majal Tikka Masala.
“I enjoy cooking because I like trying new flavors and experimenting with different ingredients to make new things,” Tyler said. “I also like making things for people, and of course, I like eating them myself!”
Tyler puts the same heart and soul into helping others as he does into his dishes. Proceeds from the sale of his cookbook go to cancer research organizations and, when the book's proceeds are combined with his other fundraising efforts, he's raised an estimated $90,000 to help fight cancer.
For now, Tyler is enjoying middle school, looking forward to the start of basketball season and continuing his dream of becoming a chef.
Check out some of Tyler’s favorite recipes below.
Goat Cheese Stuffed Meatballs
3 ounces goat cheese
2 slices of prosciutto, chopped
½ sprig rosemary, chopped
¼ pound ground lamb
½ pound ground pork
½ pound ground chicken
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 handful basil, chopped
1 tsp. ground sumac
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground thyme
1 egg, beaten
½ cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
Directions: In a small bowl, mix goat cheese, prosciutto and rosemary, and form into 12 balls. Mix all remaining ingredients in a bowl, except oils, and shape into 12 meatballs, approximately 1 ½ inches in diameter. Poke a small hole in each meatball, and place cheese ball in center. Reform meatball around cheese. Heat vegetable oil and olive oil in sauté pan over medium high heat, and sear meatballs on each side until brown. Transfer meatballs to cookie sheet, and cook in 350 degree oven until fully cooked, approximately 18 minutes. Makes 12 meatballs.
Chicken wings, cut at joint, with tips discarded
½ cup Miracle Whip
1/3 cup dark mustard
2 tbsp. honey
Zest from 1 lemon
1 tbsp. soy sauce
Directions: Drizzle wings with olive oil and toss lightly. Put on cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees until skin is dark and crispy (about 1 hour). Mix rest of ingredients in a big bowl. When wings are cooked, toss in mixture until thoroughly coated.
Caribou with Marionberry Sauce
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
2 tbsp. sherry
1/3 cup chicken broth
¼ cup lingonberry jam
½ cup whole marionberries (can be substituted with blackberries)
4 caribou filets, 1 inch thick
Sauce: In a sauce pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is heated, put chopped shallot in pan and cook until soft, approximately five minutes. Add sherry, chicken broth and lingonberry jam, and simmer for five minutes. Add whole marionberries, and simmer for 5-8 minutes, until marionberries start to break down into sauce. Remove from heat. While sauce is simmering, preheat boiler. In a frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium high heat, and sear caribou filets on each side, until brown. Place filets under broiler until cooked medium rare, approximately 8-10 minutes. Pour sauce over caribou and serve. Serves four.