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Palmer Moore, 16, used his cooking skills to win a family trip to Universal Studios Orlando as part of a global contest called "Military Kids Have Talent."

Palmer Moore is hot – sizzling, in fact. The Lake Braddock Secondary School senior has leveraged his lifelong passion in cooking to win a global contest sponsored by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation in his age group.

Moore lives in Burke, but his father’s Navy aviation career has been a heavy influence on his life and outlook. Born in Japan, Moore has lived in Ohio, Maine, Rhode Island, Florida and Washington state. He said the frequent moves allowed him to experience many different cuisines.

“Here in Burke, there’s tons of ethnic and American food. Living across the country has shown me different food types and how different people prepare similar ingredients and how the country has different ingredients,” Moore said. “That’s probably the thing I’m most thankful for being a military kid – just getting to explore food.”

Moore said that passion started early. He began helping his mother in the kitchen when he was 10. “At 12 I started making meals for my family on weeknights – my mom loved it, because she’d come home from work to a meal already made.”

He heard about the Elizabeth Dole Foundation video contest, “Military Kids Have Talent,” from a family friend and was buoyed by having already appeared – twice – on the Food Network show, Guy’s Grocery Games. He also has produced multiple TikTok cooking videos and was executive director of his school’s broadcast class.

The video contest had entries worldwide from military children in five different age groups, and once Moore learned he was a finalist, he spread the word among family and friends to vote for his video entry. Moore learned in late August that he had won in the 15- to 18-year-old group, and his family trip to Universal Studios Orlando is being planned now.

His winning recipe? His go-to favorite: a sous vide New York strip steak with rosemary, garlic and salt.

Moore explained that sous vide is “essentially a hot-tub for your steak to heat it up to the perfect temperature,” which takes about two hours, submerged in a bag with herbs and spices.

“When it was a perfect medium rare, I put it on a ripping-hot skillet with about five tablespoons of butter and basted the steak with the butter, which adds a browned butter flavor, and it’s super-tender, because it was cooked so slowly in the water bath,” he said. “That way you get a super-tender steak, a great crust and that browned butter flavor.”

Steve Schwab, CEO of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, said the contest was designed to give military kids a virtual stage to share their talents and give audiences nationwide a chance to celebrate them. “It is an emotional and recreational outlet for our families of service members, veterans, caregivers and survivors.”

Moore’s enthusiasm is ceaseless, and said his extroverted personality is common among military kids, given that the family moves so often.

“When you move every couple years and need to meet a bunch of new kids at school, you have to learn to be the one that initiates conversation and says, ‘Hi, I’m Palmer; I’m the new kid,’” Moore said with a beaming smile. “I’m grateful for that, because I’ve been at my school for six years, and when I walk down the hallway, I know almost every kid I see, and I’m at a school of almost 4,300 kids.”

After interning at a couple of restaurants, Moore discovered that he is content just being a chef at home.

“I really love food, but I don’t want to make it my career, because working in a kitchen is such hard work – it’s brutal,” he said. “There’s constant pressure that you have to make food exactly how someone else is going to want to eat it. Then, you get 50 people in a restaurant at once and you’re swamped.”

He hopes to pursue business or economics in college. “My hope is to work in some related food or hospitality industry, because I have a wealth of knowledge already within that field, and that would keep me from losing my passion.”

Paul Lara covers the military beat. Reach him at plara@insidenova.com

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