Kid chefs cook Saturday

This photo shows the chef coat that will be given to each of six student chefs who will vie for a grand prize at Saturday’s “Sodexo Future Chefs Challenge.” Pictured are the placards for each of the participating students.

Contributed photo
This photo shows the chef coat that will be given to each of six student chefs who will vie for a grand prize at Saturday’s “Sodexo Future Chefs Challenge.” Pictured are the placards for each of the participating students.

Six grade school student finalists will be vying for a generous grand prize at Saturday’s “Sodexo Future Chefs Challenge” at The Dalles Middle School.

The challenge, sponsored by Sodexo, the food service provider for the school district, asks students to come up with original, healthy, tasty, kid-friendly recipes.

Of the 75 recipes submitted from the three elementary schools, finalists were chosen from Dry Hollow and Colonel Wright.

The six students, in kindergarten through fifth grade, will arrive at the middle school on March 18 by 9 a.m., start cooking by 10, and have their dishes ready for judging by noon. Judges lined up so far include school board members Lori McCanna, Dean McAllister and John Nelson, said Troy Vennewitz, nutrition services director for the district. He is hoping to get two more judges before Saturday.

The winning chef gets a heap of goodies from Sodexo, including a backpack that says “future chef,” a fitbit, a quad copter, a spiral slicer, a five-piece kitchen set and a 17-piece measuring set.

“It’s quite the haul,” Vennewitz said.

The goal of the event is to “get kids interested in cooking and eating healthy, and piquing their creativity a little bit,” he said.

Student candidates are Nina Heredia, a first grader at Col. Wright, who will prepare her healthy banana bread; Dry Hollow first grader Coral Rodecap, who will prepare chocolate pumpkin muffins; Dry Hollow fourth-grader Erik Garcia will prepare strawberry avocado spinach salad with chicken; Brandon Le, Dry Hollow fifth grader, will prepare his original chicken tacos; Col. Wright kindergartener Amelia Perry will prepare her apple-banana yogurt honey dessert; and Silas Parsons, a Col. Wright fourth-grader, will prepare his scrambled eggs pizza.

The students will each have their own food prep area in the middle school kitchen, and there will be several adult staff on hand to assist, since safety is paramount, Vennewitz said.

Each student will get a chef coat to keep, and the top three finalists will get a cookbook titled “Global Cooking for Kids: your passport to flavor and fun featuring chef Remmi Smith.”

Each student will also get a “cut glove. You can’t cut through it with a knife, so that’s a safety feature for them,” Vennewitz said.

The students will be judged on ease of preparation, taste, originality, healthy attributes, kid-appeal, and plate presentation.

The winner here will be considered for regional finalist awards, and the selected regional finalists will vie to become one of five national finalists competing for the public’s vote on SodexoUSA.com.

“According to the American Heart Association, about one in every three American kids and teens is overweight or obese,” said Stephen Dunmore, an official with Sodexo, in a press release. “This staggering statistic demonstrates why it is more important than ever to engage youth to become advocates for their own health.”

Of the submitted recipes, a handful were actually too complex to qualify for the contest, Vennewitz said.

Students were also encouraged to use key words in their recipes, including whole grain pasta, whole grain bread, brown rice, lowfat cheese, eggs, lean ground beef, turkey, potatoes and mushrooms.

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