• KYW- News At 5/6 PM
    05:00 PM - 06:30 PM
By Cherri Gregg

CHESTER, PA (CBS) — A 12 year old girl from Chester is blazing trails after a win on a popular reality TV cooking show.

The USS John Murtha is a formidable vessel at 684 feet long, it’s designed to transport military vehicles. But inside Chef Tavia Isaac, made herself right at home.

“I like cooking with this grill,” says Isaac, chopping steak, “it’s like cooking with a Hibachi!”

The recent champion of “Chopped Junior” on Food Network, Chef Tavia discovered her love of cooking under circumstances that were far from ideal.

“Cooking makes me think of my time in the hospital,” says Isaac, “I turned a sad thing into something good.”

Photo credit: KYW's Cherri Gregg

Photo credit: KYW’s Cherri Gregg

Chef Tavia was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when she was 8 years old. She had her colon removed and spent about a month at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She always loved food thanks to her grandmother and mom, Crystal, so she decided to watch cooking shows while she healed. Pretty soon, she wanted to try out what she learned.

“The food at the hospital was good, but I wanted to make it better,” says Isaac, “so they let me in the kitchen at CHOP– and that was the first time I really got to cook.”

When Chef Tavia returned home, she really got into cooking. And by age 9, her mom didn’t have to lift a finger to cook.

“She didn’t have to touch the stove,” says Isaac, “I cook all of our meals– breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

Fast forward and Chef Tavia scored a spot on Chopped Junior. The homeschooler won the grand prize, $10,000, and since then, the door of opportunity opened wide.

“This is Tavia’s ‘double cheese, grilled cheese cheesesteak,” she says, with a big smile.

She’s had a world wind of media attention and a number of invites to put her skills to the test, like this one, on the USS John Murtha.

“She’s going to be a force to be reckoned with when she gets older,” says Keith Exum, who catered the dinner for the retirement party for Navy Master Chief Brian Exum. The Exums are also from Chester and the Master Chief wanted everything for his party to come from Chester, so he included Chef Tavia.

“She helped with the menu,” says Exum, “oh– and her famous coleslaw– she put her thing down and I didn’t do anything to help her.”

Chef Tavia is already a force. With her Crohn’s in remission, she has her sight sets on huge horizons.

“I want to be on more TV shows,” she says, “I want to be a known Chef like Wolfgang Puck.”

Her favorite Chef– is Sunny Anderson, who has been diagnosed with colitis.

“I’ve never met her,” says Isaac, “but I think we would be best friends.”

So far it seems like she’s on the right ship, sailing in the direction of her dreams.

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