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Ronnie Thomas

Bly Sandlin, 13, participated in the Men Who Cook event earlier this year. He began cooking when he was 11, with his grandmother's help.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Bly Sandlin, 13, participated in the Men Who Cook event earlier this year. He began cooking when he was 11, with his grandmother's help.

Youthful chef fills home with sweet smells

PRICEVILLE — You know you’re in the presence of a chef when you enter the home on Indian Hills Road: The sweet aroma of food greets you at the door.

That’s because Bly Sandlin is in the kitchen, and he is cooking.

The youthful connoisseur of fine food has spent a lot of time around a stove and slicing board since he was 11, when his grandmother, “Me-Maw” Carolyn Burns, taught him to cook.

The Priceville High School sixth-grader, now 13, felt he had arrived when he broke into the ranks of the “Men Who Cook” fundraiser in January at Colonial Mall, which benefits the Mental Health Association in Morgan County.

“I made four chicken casseroles, and I got a lot of good comments,” Bly said.

And those who bought tickets to the event got all of his casseroles, one sample cup at a time.

There are moments when he appears to be Priceville’s answer to a young master chef in the mold of a Paul Prudhomme. Bly’s mother, Maria Hill, saw glimpses of that a year ago on Valentine’s Day.

“He had breakfast fixed for me, eggs, bacon and toast. It surprised me that he had done it all so well,” she said.

As Bly talked about cooking, he pulled a casserole from the oven and popped in another. “This is it, pretty much,” when asked about his favorite dish.

It’s a prizewinner among family, too. He begins by pushing a buggy down the aisles of Dollar General for the ingredients: Ritz crackers, mayonnaise, sour cream, small cans of Sara Lee chicken, cream of chicken soup and mixed vegetables.

After ingredients are in the square baking pan, he crumbles the crackers on top. He melts butter in the microwave, pours it over the crackers and sets the oven at 400 degrees. He inserts the pan and 30 minutes later slides out a meal. Bly also whips out breakfast foods, tasty chocolate cakes and smoothies, which are a combination of ice cream, bananas and other fruits whipped in a blender and sipped like a frozen milkshake.

He is cooking at whatever he does. He’s a straight-A student, he sketches, meticulously puts together Legos in the “Star Wars” series, collects music boxes, rocks on a keyboard and plays trumpet in the Priceville High School band.

And then there was that time in the pulpit at Rural Grove Baptist Church when some might have pegged him as a ringer for the next Billy Graham.

“He told me he wanted to preach,” said his grandfather, Jerry Burns. “I thought he meant a few words. He was up there 45 minutes, talking about Adam and Eve.”

That might seem unremarkable except that Bly was 5 years old. He remembers how his sermon began: “People, you might wonder why I’m here. God whispered in my ear, called my name and said, ‘Preach, Bly.’ ”

So what kind of a career path is this Renaissance boy on?

“Maybe archaeology,” he said, still wearing his “Men Who Cook” apron. “I love digging. And an archaeologist makes good money. If I don’t make it there, I guess being a chef is a backup plan. I might open my own restaurant. Most of the time, I like eating my own cooking.”

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Ronnie Thomas Ronnie Thomas
DAILY Staff Writer

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