Autistic teen turns fear of food into cooking passion 13-year-old chef Chase Bailey takes a holiday spice pound cake out of the oven in Irvine, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Autistic teen turns fear of food into cooking passion
Lexile

When Chase Bailey was diagnosed with autism at 2, his mother feared he'd never enjoy a typical childhood. Indeed, he hasn't. Between appearances with celebrities and hosting his own cooking show, Bailey's life feels anything but typical.
 
During the past two years, the 13-year-old has spiced up ramen noodles with Korean-American street food guru Roy Choi, simmered butternut squash soup with Sting's daughter, Fuschia Sumner, and baked hundreds of bright blue frosted cookies for guests at an Autism Speaks gala in Los Angeles, where he was introduced by Conan O'Brien.
 
The days when Bailey would eat nothing but pizza, chicken, French fries, chocolate chip cookies, and chips with dip almost seem like a faint memory.
 
"He wasn't even eating food until he was 8 years old," said Nick Shipp, executive chef at The Upper West, the Santa Monica, California, restaurant where Bailey helps cook dinner once a week. "For him to go from that to cooking and eating all kinds of different things, it's pretty remarkable."
 
After her son's diagnosis, friends and acquaintances prepared Mary Bailey for the worst. He'd never be able to have a job, some said. He'd probably never learn to socialize. And he'd never be independent.
 
"You just hear a lot of things that are downers," she said.
 
She immediately placed her son in school and therapy. At home, she struggled to get him to eat. Like many on the autism spectrum, Chase found food overwhelming. The sight, smell, feel and taste of almost everything put on his plate tipped his sensory system over the edge.
 
"I didn't like how it looked," he said. "I didn't like how it smelled."
 
Then he started watching cooking shows with his grandfather. He got hooked on seeing people enjoy the food they were eating. Within six months, he started asking to try some of the foods he saw on shows like Cooking Channel's "Eat St." and Food Network's "Chopped." Among his early requests: fried alligator, frog legs and beef tongue.
 
"He was just devouring it," Mary Bailey recalled with a laugh.
 
Two years later, he confided to his mother that one day he wanted to have his own cooking show.
 
"She was like, 'Why wait?'" Chase Bailey said.
 
Setting out with her home camcorder and using a friend's kitchen, they recorded the first episode of "Chase 'N Yur Face" and posted it to YouTube. The show quickly caught the attention of autism groups and, realizing the impact they could have, Mary Bailey began looking for ways to enhance the production. She hired a professional film crew and started incorporating cooking and shooting episodes into her son's homeschool curriculum.
 
Chase Bailey, using the cooking shows he watched as inspiration, started reaching out by email to chefs he admired and invited them to tape episodes with him.
 
"It was no big deal," Bailey said nonchalantly. "I'm like, 'If they're doing it, I'm doing it.'"
 
In the show, a confident, charismatic Chase whips up everything from cupcakes to braised rabbit. The show - which now has more than 30 episodes online - has garnered tens of thousands of views.
 
"I love that there's a story behind it," said Sumner, an actress living in Los Angeles. She recently taped a holiday special with the teen. "Food is emotional."
 
The most challenging part, Mary Bailey said, has been learning how to produce a show. She spent 20 years in the corporate world before leaving a management position to focus full-time on her son. Chase Bailey said his biggest challenge was learning how to fry chicken while talking in front of a camera.
 
"To see your child go from little to no speech, no eye contact ... having extreme food aversions, all of these symptoms, to almost the exact opposite," Mary Bailey said, "I don't know, it feels miraculous."
 
Chase Bailey dreams of one day seeing his show on television and wants to open his own restaurant. He also hopes his experience can help others with autism.
 
"Don't be afraid to be you," Chase Bailey said.
 
"Hear, hear," Sumner said. "Be yourself because everyone else is taken."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is food a challenge for autistic children?
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COMMENTS (9)
  • ShawnaWeiser-Ste
    11/19/2015 - 02:45 p.m.

    I think this is an absolutely inspiring idea. Autistic children get a lot of criticism and for him to prove people wrong is just extraordinary. I will definitely be checking his show out the next time I get a chance.

    • ethanv-ali
      12/02/2015 - 11:35 a.m.

      Food is a challenge for autistic people Because they have different scents and feelings. They get anxiety really quickly if they feel or smell something out of their range. It always has to be different material, foods, and environment for autistic people. They have to overcome this horrible feeling of anxiety. Chase is really brave. It is amazing how so many kids will turn from their fears and show their inner self because of chase. I hope that more and more autistic people wont be afraid to be what they want to be.

  • emilya-
    11/23/2015 - 12:51 p.m.

    Three important facts that were in this article are that an autistic child named Chase Bailey wanted his own cooking show. Another is that he wants a show on t.v and to open a restaurant. One surprising detail that I found in this article was that Chase never ate until he was eight years old and now he is the complete opposite and wants to cook for a hobby.Two questions that I have about this article are, Why is Chase finally wanting to eat and cook?. Another question is , Why did he want to try the foods on the cooking shows when there are so many better foods.

  • treyg-
    11/23/2015 - 12:51 p.m.

    He didn't like the smell taste or look of most foods. Didn't eat food until he was 8 years old.He was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2 years old. Does he have his own show yet? Why did he want to try the weird food at first. He went to not eating most food to eating a lot.

  • madisonr-3133-
    11/23/2015 - 12:58 p.m.

    3. 3 important facts are ....
    1- He never really started eating food until he was 8.
    2- He was diagnosed with autism at 2.
    3- He has his own cooking show called "Chase N yur face"
    2. Two questions i have are....
    1- I wonder if he got really sick because he never really ate?
    2- I wonder if he ever got bullied because of his autism?
    3. One surprising detail was to learn he had his own t.v show because I've never heard about it or seen it before.

  • jacelynd-
    11/23/2015 - 01:10 p.m.

    So the first fact is that Chase Bailey when he was 2 years old his mother was worried that Chase Bailey wouldn't have a nice childhood. Another fact is that Chase Bailey's mother started to teach him how to could because he just got bored a lot, so after Chase's mother teaching him how to cook he started to have fun cooking with his mother. The last fact is that Chase's mother felt happy because she feels like she did the right thing for her son.
    The question I have is that why was Chase's mother felt like she wasn't doing the right thing? Also another question I have is that what is the number one thing that Chase likes to cook?
    The only thing that surprised me was that Chase loved to cook when he was bored.

  • mikaylan-
    11/30/2015 - 04:48 p.m.

    Three important facts from the story are. That Chase Bailey got to work with professional chefs and meet and greet with celebrities. Another important fact is that 50% of the children with autism don't eat a lot of food or don't like most food. The final interesting fact is that no matter what sickness you have or how old you are nothing on this planet can stop you from dong what you dream of. The two questions I have from the story are. How come the smell and taste affect autistic children? How is Chase Bailey's cooking. What surprised was that I never knew that a autistic child could achieve as much as a rich person or professional. NO OFFENSE to Chase Bailey.:)

  • mirandaf-pay
    12/08/2015 - 10:51 a.m.

    This is a really sweet story, and Chase is a great person to be able to overcome his fear of food and try and soothe this own food sensitivity. I can't wait to see him on the cooking channel one day.

  • brendanw-kut
    5/18/2017 - 04:38 p.m.

    To begin as a autistic person myself, I want to state that this can vary. I often had a hard time trying new food that looked disgusting but sometimes I could try it. So it's not always this severe or heck, sometimes it isn't even a problem at all. However I still understand what made him want to try it. I had a similar experience. After watching Rhett and Link do their will it challenges on Good Mythical Morning, I want to try all sorts of disgusting food.

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