By Dana Delgado
The seemingly long wait for Noelia Hernandez ended last Thursday in an emotional surprise announcement at Liberty Hill Intermediate School.
Before a gym filled with students and staff, Miss Hernandez was named as a regional finalist in the Future Chef Contest sponsored by Sodexo, the food service management company that oversees the child nutrition services for Liberty Hill ISD. The competition challenged third through sixth grade students to submit recipes of their favorite healthy sandwich dish.
LHISD General Manager of Child Nutrition Services Mary Sheffield made the announcement along with Shannon Wallace, Intermediate School cafeteria manager.
“I wanted to cry,” said Miss Hernandez. “I can’t believe I made it to regionals. I’ve been waiting and waiting. I’m so happy.”
Principal Kathy Major praised Miss Hernandez for her efforts and much deserved recognition.
“I’m so proud of you,” said Mrs. Major. “You did it right, worked hard and achieved.”
The sixth grader had been waiting to see if she would advance after being named the district’s Grand Prize Winner Feb. 13 at the 4th Annual Future Chef Competition with her “Gobble Gobbler” sandwich recipe.
“The recipe was pretty much my idea, but my little cousin helped me a bit,” she said. “I liked it because it has less calories and is nutritious.”
Miss Hernandez used oven roasted turkey breast and American cheese wrapped in lettuce. Judging was based on originality, healthy attributes, easy preparation, kid friendliness, and taste and plate presentation.
Mrs. Sheffield said the competition is about encouraging healthy lifestyles and nourishing foods.
As a regional qualifier, Miss Hernandez was presented a Kindle prize package complete with a case, headphones, and power charger and a $100 Amazon gift card.
With her triumph, Miss Hernandez became one of seven regional finalists representing the south region. However, only a few hours later, all that dramatically changed with even more exciting news for the sixth grader. After review by national judges, she was named as one of five national semi-finalists representing the region.
Winners will be determined by online voting April 28-May 4 on a YouTube video voting link. Voters will see a three-minute video prepared by each semi-finalist including one of Miss Hernandez creating her award-winning “Gobble Gobbler” lettuce wrap. At press time Wednesday night, the voting link was not available. Mrs. Sheffield said high school students from the Media Department and Culinary Arts classes have been assisting with the video this week to get it ready for next week’s voting.
After a whirlwind of emotions punctuated by plenty of excitement, Miss Hernandez, who says she likes to cook but mostly to bake (especially pineapple upside down cake), said she almost didn’t give the competition a second thought when Mrs. Wallace approached her about submitting an entry.
“I didn’t make it last year or in fourth grade,” said the sixth grader. “But Mrs. Shannon (Wallace) kept telling me to do it, to try again. If it wasn’t for Mrs. Shannon (Wallace), I wouldn’t be here.”
Mrs. Wallace, excited with the student’s success, held back tears.
“I was so happy for her that I got emotional,” she said. “She’s a quiet student but came up with a great idea with her simple recipe. You never know what will happen until you try.”
Mrs. Sheffield said that through Mrs. Wallace’s efforts, the Intermediate School submitted the most entries of any school in the district and Miss Hernandez became the first student from Liberty Hill to advance from this grade level of competition.
While she enters national competition April 28, a group of Culinary Arts students from LHHS will be taking part in a Sodexo-sponsored “Culinary Throw Down” on Friday, April 25, at Georgetown East View High School.
“They will be competing against several other area schools culinary classes,” said Mrs. Sheffield. “It is similar to our Kids’ Future Chef Program but a more advanced group competition.”
Participating as a team are Sabrina Sweeney, Chelsey Reagan, Juliette Fierro, Caleb Hanson and Omar Perez. Each team will be judged by chefs on safety and team spirit and unity as well as on a salad dish and entrée as well as their presentation.