Cooking challenge puts budding Eden Hall chefs to the test
The cafeteria kitchen at Eden Hall Upper Elementary School could have passed for the set of Master Chef Junior on Feb. 27 as six of the school’s budding young culinary wizards put their recipes to the test.
The fourth and fifth graders were chosen as finalists in the 2019 Sodexo Future Chefs Challenge and for this year’s competition had to present healthy, Mexican-inspired dishes for the panel of judges. Each young chef was partnered with his or her very own sous chef, chosen from amongst district cafeteria staff, as they chopped, stirred, seasoned and cooked their creations.
Fourth grader Tessa Lutz made a dish called Apple Taco Tastic that was voted the winner based on the criteria of originality, taste, ease of presentation, kid friendliness and use of healthy ingredients.
“It’s an apple taco with apple salsa and guacamole,” she said. “I looked it up because I really like guacamole so I was looking up good guacamole dishes and this came up so I decided to do it.”
Fifth grader Ryan Katzfey’s creation was Fried Jack, a combination of homemade tortillas, refried beans and eggs that he said he first learned about during a trip to Belize.
Fourth grader Kenneth Hoy prepared black bean and sweet potato quesadillas, while fifth grader Charlotte Liao prepared enchiladas.
Brooke Deegan, a fifth grader, chopped green peppers as she described her cheesy chilaquiles dish.
“It’s my mom’s recipe, she made it up,” said Deegan, who cooks the family dinner once a week during the summer. “I’ve been having it for a long time so when they said Mexico was the theme I thought this would be perfect. I cut up some peppers and onions and then I fry them until they’re soft, then I add some enchilada sauce and tomato paste then I add my pork and fold the chips in and I’ll add some decorative toppings and sour cream on the top.”
Fifth grader Josh Oklejewski made a dish called Senorita Bonita, a mahi mahi taco with street corn and churro. He and his mother are the only ones in his family who like Mexican food, he said, and when they lived in Ohio they had a favorite restaurant where they’d go together.
“I named it Senorita Bonita to remind me of that special time with my mom,” he said.
Sodexo, which is the food service contractor for the Pine-Richland School District, sponsors the annual competition as part of its work with the Partnership for a Healthier America. Diane Bucknum, general manager of the Sodexo Food Service Department at Pine-Richland, said it’s a way to get kids excited about not only cooking, but also cooking healthy food.
“This is the eighth year for this promotion and every year the kids are so excited,” Bucknum said. “It’s the kids who really like food and want to be in the kitchen. I talked to a few parents and they were prepping at home and practicing, and it is hard for them because it’s different from cooking it at home. Now you’re in a big kitchen and we’ve doubled the recipes so it’s difficult. It’s a real chef challenge for them so it shows a lot of determination and courage for them to come and do it.”