Local graduate surprised with celebrity chefs at open house

By STEVEN MURREY

Most graduates have an open house, but few have one as unique as Cameron Ball. Ball recently graduated high school in Cape Coral, Florida. Though Ball has lived in both Florida and Elwood, he now plans on sticking around for college at Ivy Tech.

Ball’s parents, Trevor and Amber, organized a pleasant surprise for Cameron’s open house. Dishes for the event were prepared by Cameron, an aspiring chef, and his mentors Chef Sterling Wright and Chef Barret Beyer. The two were featured on FOX’s hit show Hell’s Kitchen.

The duo met Cameron after he helped with a Hell’s Kitchen Takeover event. He was taking classes at Little Chefs in Training in Ft. Meyers, Florida when invited to participate in the takeover event. Since then, the three have become fast friends.

Chef Sterling recalled first meeting Cameron.

“It was like we were in jail and it was his first time coming in,” Sterling joked. “He comes in, and you can see him going to a corner, like, ‘please don’t ask me to do anything.'”

Sterling and Barret exchanged glances. Barret said Sterling could break him in, and he’d get him next. “He said, ‘I’m shy,'” Sterling recalled. “I said that’s going to change.”

Cameron said that the other celebrity chefs who catered the Takeover events seemed to be more into their celebrity status than teaching.

“They showed me immediately what to do and what not to do,” Ball said.

Cameron’s parents said the original plan was to surprise him with a gathering in Florida, but plans were changed due to COVID-19. Sterling and Barret arrived on Friday and meal prep began. Cameron said together, they spent more than 16 hours preparing food for his open house.

Cameron plans to attend Ivy Tech for two years, where he will study computer forensics. From there, he plans to attend a three-month program at Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland. He is also interested in real estate, as his father is a real estate investor. When he returns from Ireland, he hopes to open a cooking school franchise in the Elwood area.

“I want to start out fast,” says Cameron. “I have these mentors around me, and that’s what they did and you can see where they are now. You just have to have hard work and determination and you’ll eventually get to wherever your dreams are.”

Cameron, who first took a serious interest in cooking at age 16, credited Pat Rice of The Tin Plate getting him started down this path.

“When I was there, Pat would push me towards cooking,” he recalled. “He showed me what he’d do, and gave me support. Without him, I don’t know that I’d be heading towards cooking.”

Before dinner, featuring menu items such as Korean skirt steak, Jamaican-style southern chicken, and more, Chefs Barret and Sterling presented Cameron with a special jacket, embroidered with the Hell’s Kitchen logo.

“Cameron used to come to our Hell’s Kitchen Takeover,” Chef Sterling told the attendees of the open house. “He’s gone from a caterpillar to a butterfly before our eyes. We name Cameron our sous-chef.” Cameron, visibly moved by the gesture, said it meant everything to him.

“It means everything, it’s everything I’ve been working for,” he said.

“I think he has come along way in a short period of time,” Chef Barret said of Cameron. “He reminds me a lot of myself.”

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