Chef Chris Shepherd impressed by meeting with teen heart patient

HOUSTON,Texas (KTRK) -- At the age of 14, Hunter Henry already dreams of being a professional chef one day, while he waits for a heart transplant to replace the one he was born with.

He and his mother are temporarily living in Houston, many miles away from their home in Lafayette, Louisiana.

He cooks for her everyday, except when he grows tired because his oxygen count is low.

Laura Henry thought her son, whose recipes were added to the menu for Texas Children's Hospital patients, would enjoy meeting a chef with a restaurant to learn more about the art of cooking.

That's where James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd entered the picture.

He agreed to meet Hunter, show him around the kitchen, and give him insight on what it takes to run a restaurant and create food that's anything but ordinary.

The meeting place was Georgia James, Shepherd's steak restaurant in Montrose. Hunter arrived in his own chef's jacket, and was greeted by the staff.

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The next stop was the kitchen where a rib-eye steak was waiting to be prepared.

Hunter asked questions about cooking time, how much salt was used and whether pepper should be added before cooking.

It got Shepherd's attention. "To be that young, and want to be in a kitchen, is impressive," he said.

Hunter learned how to cook a steak to perfection, how to judge cooking time, and the philosophy of a chef who is internationally renowned.

"When you cook with passion and love, it's the best kind of food," Shepherd told his student for the afternoon.

He believes Hunter has a real talent for food. "He asked real questions and wanted to know more," he said.

Hunter's mom said her son was soaking up everything like a sponge.

For Hunter, it was a day he will never forget. "It makes my heart open up more, where I realize it's not just about the cooking, and the order. It's about being a family."

He left Georgia James with a new extended family.

Sitting at the dining table, Chris Shepherd looked around at the staff and said, "This is the family for us, and now you're our family at this point."

That's cooking with love.

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