When sisters Ca'Bria Parker and Jazz'Myn McKenzie attended a USO cooking class for military families this June – which was hosted by celebrity chef and star of ABC’s “The Chew” Carla Hall – they couldn’t wait to recreate the dishes they learned in their home kitchen.
“That night [after the class] we went home and cooked [the dish she taught us for the rest of our family],” Ca'Bria said. “Carla was very friendly and nice and open and awesome. … It was just a great experience.”
“It was very nice because I got to see a famous person and cook with them and learn from them,” Jazz'Myn said. “And she also called me her ‘Mini-Me.’”
Ca'Bria and Jazz'Myn live near Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, with their father, Army Staff Sgt. Reginald McKenzie, mother, Patrica McKenzie, and brother, Dashiell McKenzie. The family places a premium on volunteerism, and has spent several hours helping out at USOs over the years.
The girls never thought they’d get another opportunity to cook alongside Hall again. Then the USO and “The Chew” called.
“The Chew” asked the McKenzies to travel to New York City and appear on the show’s season premiere. While on the show, the McKenzies cooked meat and veggies alongside Hall and other families.
“It was very organic, it felt very natural. Just like … cooking with old friends, you know, or extended family,” said Patrica McKenzie, who is an Navy veteran.
At one point during the episode, Hall asked the McKenzies about their life as a military family and how they deal with deployments, frequent moves and other issues unique to military life. Hall also shared her reflections on hosting USO events at military bases around the country.
The McKenzie’s received one more surprise while filming the episode: a $10,000 check from Ikea to renovate their home kitchen.
“It still feels kind of surreal," Patrica said. "It hasn’t really hit us.”
More from the USO
Dec 14, 2017
Prosthetists Provide Amputees a Helping Hand – and Foot – On Their Road to Recovery
More than 1,500 American troops have lost a limb since 2001, in Afghanistan or Iraq or other deployments around the world. Walter Reed — first at the old campus in Washington, D.C., and now at the new facility in Bethesda — is where they take their first steps toward a new reality.
Dec 13, 2017
Delivering a USO Care Package in 360°
What does it take to get a USO Care Package into the hands of deployed service members? The answer is a lot of time and a lot of hard work by USO volunteers and staff. Watch the video to follow a USO Care Package along its journey to troops overseas.