Countries’ cookin’: For Seamus Bartels, learning to cook is an international endeavor

Fifteen-year-old Seamus Bartels is learning to cook continent by continent. Photo: Christian Hommel Fifteen-year-old Seamus Bartels is learning to cook continent by continent. Photo: Christian Hommel

“We may have bought the wrong kind of seaweed,” is not a typical statement you’d read in a blog from a 15-year-old, but Seamus Bartels takes his seafood seriously. The Charlottesville High School freshman blogs about his adventures preparing international recipes. His attempt at creating a seaweed with garlic and vinegar dish was his only bad experience so far.

“It was slimy to start with and I already had a bad feeling, but when I added the vinegar it was really rubbery,” Seamus said. “Other than that, South Korea has been one of my favorites.”

The Charlottesville teen has always liked to cook, and recent travels to Italy and Portugal only fueled his love for international cuisine. He finds recipes at the library and decides what sounds like a good challenge. But he’s very methodical, cooking his way around the world, continent by continent. Currently focused on Asia, Seamus is looking forward to tackling Indonesia (“but it’s hard to find the right ingredients”) and he has his sights set on Japan before moving on to European cuisine.

“Doing this lets me explore different techniques,” he said. “It’s so cool that one continent has so many styles of cooking!”

He’s keeping an online journal of his journey at His blog is meant to share his experiences, obviously, but it also has a bigger mission: to help him get into college.

“How can I show a school that I have experience cooking when I don’t have a career behind it? This blog shows what I’ve done,” he said.

Seamus said his mom likes having help in the kitchen (“especially at Thanksgiving and Christmas”), and his brother and sisters are behind him.

“They try it sometimes. Occasionally I get the ‘I don’t want fish, I hate fish,’ kind of comment,” he said. “Other than that, they’re pretty supportive.”

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