Future Chef Challenge draws healthy snacks
By Dana Delgado
This year’s Future Chef Challenge at the Liberty Hill Intermediate School turned out to be more of showcase of an emerging generation, Generation “H” as in healthy, than a contest; although there were plenty of notable winners at the March 13 event.
MacKenzie Wood, a fourth grade student from Bill Burden Elementary, was named the Grand Prize Winner with her Cucumber Avocado Chicken Salad Sandwich. Judges Kathy Becker, John Clark, Krissy Gryseels agreed with Miss Wood’s description of her sandwich as “amazing.”
Kendall Brown, also a fourth grader at Bill Burden Elementary, took honors for Best Taste with her Sisters Smoothie Snack.
Sixth grade student Kristopher Kelley, a finalist for the second straight year, won the Best Healthy Attributes category with his Party Peppers.
Also receiving recognition for their entries in the Super Chef competition were Montgomery Madison and Emma McAndrews, both fifth graders at Liberty Hill Intermediate School. With her Puppy Dogs with Sweet Relish entry, Miss Madison won Best in Originality while Miss McAndrews’ Rainbow Roll-Ups were named Most Kid Friendly. Winning Best Plate Presentation was third grade student Jordan Warren with her Banana Blueberry Bars. All the contestants were presented a basket filled with assortment of cooking utensils and related items.
“The idea behind Future Chefs is to get students thinking about making healthy food choices while encouraging them to be creative with those food choices,” said Liberty Hill Independent School District Nutrition Services Director Mary Sheffield. “With that idea in mind, our event was a great success. You can see it in the contestants’ recipes. Students used fat free or low fat yogurts instead of mayonnaise. Many of the recipes included spinach, tomatoes, carrots, berries and bell peppers. We also had a variety of types of recipes from salads, smoothies to baked items.”
The Future Chef Challenge is coordinated and sponsored by Sodexo, the company that manages food service operations across the country including the Liberty Hill ISD. LHISD has been having Future Chef Competitions for several years, but this is only the second year the school district will be a part of the national competition.
This year’s competitors were selected as finalists from a field of 55 elementary school students from the school district who submitted healthy, after-school snack recipes. Finalists prepared and presented their creations before being assessed by the panel of judges on criteria including originality, taste, presentation, kid friendliness and use of healthy ingredients. Liberty Hill joins approximately 230 other school districts representing over 1,000 Sodexo-served school sites in 29 states holding Future Chefs events throughout February and March.
LHISD’s 2015 Future Chef Grand Prize winner Mackenzie Wood could not stop smiling following the announcement of the winners by Sheffield.
“I was surprised but excited,” said Miss Wood who enjoys cooking fish, chicken, and stir-fry as well as preparing salads at home. “I was nervous throughout the day (of the contest), but now I can’t stop smiling.”
This was Mackenzie’s first time to participate in the competition.
“While there have been a couple of times where Mackenzie has mentioned cooking or baking with family at home, I was happily surprised to learn of her amazing success in the Future Chefs competition,” said one of Miss Wood’s teachers, Emily Lively. “I was not aware that she possessed such talents! I’m so happy for her! She is full of energy and always eager to learn.”
As the grand prize winner, Mackenzie has the opportunity to advance to the regional round of competition scheduled for Tuesday, April 7. A national team of chefs from Sodexo will review the winning recipe cards remotely. Selected regional finalists will vie to become one of five national finalists competing for the public’s vote on a special Future Chefs YouTube channel.
Assisting this year with the Future Chef Challenge were Michele Bordelon (High School Cafeteria Manager), Monica Ramirez (High School Assistant Manager), Esmeralda Andrews (Junior High Manager), Shannon Wallace (Intermediate Manager), Christie Cline (Bill Burden Elementary Manager), Chelsea Cline and Diane Castleberry (Child Nutrition Services employees) and Julie Koepl (Child Nutrition Secretary).
Also assisting were Liberty Hill High School culinary arts students Joanna Sandoval, Krista West, Canan Koyun and Cameron Ingram as well as Juliette Fierro and Gabrielle Fierro, former LHS culinary arts students now attending Tarleton State University.