11-Year-Old Chef Behind Kent Rathbun Restaurant Dessert

By Julie Tam
|  Saturday, Jul 23, 2011  |  Updated 12:42 AM CDT
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Eleven-year-old Jenay Benge makes lemon bars for diners at Rathbun's Blue Plate Kitchen in Dallas.

Julie Tam, NBCDFW

Eleven-year-old Jenay Benge makes lemon bars for diners at Rathbun's Blue Plate Kitchen in Dallas.

Professional chefs usually do the cooking at restaurants, but at Kent Rathbun's Blue Plate Kitchen in Dallas, a pre-teen is one of the dessert chefs.

Jenay Benge, an 11-year-old seventh-grader, usually bakes her sweet-and-sour dessert at home.

Rathbun got a taste of her lemon bars from a mutual acquaintance, and after a few changes to the recipe, he was sold. Now, Chef Jenay's lemon bars are now one of the most popular items on the dessert menu.

"I love it. I think it's great and I think it totally fits in with our concept," said Rathbun, executive chef and co-owner of several North Texas fine dining restaurants. "Here's this young girl that's trying to do something entrepreneurial, and I thought, 'That's pretty cool.'"

The youngest of six children, Jenay wants to become a pastry chef one day.

The mini Martha Stewart was so determined to hone her craft, she sold her own baked goods to pay for cooking classes that her mom thought were too expensive.

"And it was $200, so she was like, 'No, you're not going to be able to do that.' And I said, 'OK, well, I'm going to raise the money myself then,'" said Jenay. "Knowing that people love my lemon bars and that they'll come back for them -- I just love that."

Her parents now work for her. They deliver her lemon bars to the restaurant, and she pays them a delivery fee.

"We're proud of all our kids, but certainly, Jenay going out on her own and doing these things -- I mean, she's just a real independent, hard worker," said Tracy, Jenay's mother.

Jenay is now working on a brownie and a cake that just may show up on a menu at a Kent Rathbun restaurant in the future.

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