School districts go toque-to-toque in friendly culinary competition
For the fourth year in a row, future young chefs from around the region gathered together to demonstrate their finesse in a kitchen. Fourth- and fifth-grade students from five area school districts (Connally, Lorena, Robinson, LaVega, and Waco) donned aprons and toques in the University High kitchen to compete in the National Challenge of Future Chefs sponsored by Sodexo.
“The purpose of the program is to promote healthy eating with an emphasis on breakfast items,” said Cliff Reece, general manager for Sodexo.
Studies have shown that students who start the day with more energy learn and absorb more and are less likely to have discipline or attention problems, Reece said.
Each of the participants was charged with creating a healthy breakfast food item during a timed portion of the contest. The contestants then had to prepare 100 servings of their dish and create an aesthetically appealing display table for the judging portion of the contest.
This year, the Waco ISD Culinary Arts program, under the direction of Marsha Walker (University High) and Gale Crompton (A.J. Moore Academy) provided student volunteer culinary instructors to work with the 25 contestants. These older students provided mentoring and support and helped the younger students navigate the large kitchen as they prepared their recipes for judging.
While the children were working in the kitchen, Sodexo engaged the parents in activities. Chef Henry from Sodexo in Huntsville conducted a cooking demonstration with foods to sample. In addition, a health fair in the school’s culinary kitchen provided parents with materials and information about the new Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) regulations as well as recipes and ideas for promoting healthy eating at home.
The annual event is part of Sodexo’s community involvement initiative of helping keep children focused on the task of healthy eating, as well as involving the parents and community with the new United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations that focus on healthy eating.
During an awards ceremony, each student was recognized and five grand prize winners were selected by judges in the following five categories:
Robinson Intermediate/Robinson ISD
“Bacon Cheese Puffs”
Waco ISD/Hillcrest PDS
Lorena Elementary/Lorena ISD
“Banana in a Blanket”
Connally Elementary/Connaly ISD
“Grandma’s Baked Apple”
Events such as this would not be possible without the help from sponsors and underwriters. In particular, several businesses helped sponsor this event by donating prizes and gift certificates for the students:
LaBatt Food Service
U-Swirl Frozen Yogurt
Waco Hotel Restaurant Supply
For the judges, tasting and ultimately choosing winners from all of the creative dishes is a challenge. A big thank you to the event judges who had a very difficult task:
Dr. Michael Hope