Recently, student chefs from six cities across the country were at the Department of Education to participate in the Cooking up Change National Finals. These talented students earned their way by winning local competitions in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Orange County and Troy, Alabama. They engaged in a cook-off that saw the team from Orange County win first place and the team from Houston win second.
Cooking up Change challenges high school culinary students to create healthy, great-tasting meals that meet the real-life requirements of the national school meal program. Cooking up Change serves up life-changing opportunities, helps students realize their own potential and puts student voices front and center in the national dialogue about school food. Healthy Schools Campaign launched Cooking up Change in Chicago, and more than 2,200 students from 23 cities have participated in local contests since the program started in 2007. Winners travel to Washington, D.C., for the national finals to show off their culinary skills and engage with health and education leaders, the culinary community and Congress.
Orange County impressed the judges with their menu of Chinese Orange Chicken, Spicy Thai Slaw, Momo Otsu Mugi. The team from Houston wowed judges with their menu of Zucchini Pasta with Cajun Chicken, Pinto Bean & Tomato Soup and Bananas & Yogurt. Although there were only two winners, all of the student chefs created delicious school meals that would be a great addition to menus across the country.
Meals were judged on their originality, taste, texture and appearance. Teams scored additional points for the quality of their presentation to the judging panel. The judging panel consisted of Department of Education staff, national leaders, chefs and students. In the end, each team was a winner, having earned their way to the national finals by winning their local competition, and having demonstrated the hard work and skill it takes to create healthy and delicious school meals on a tight budget.
Sara Porter is Vice President of External Affairs for the Healthy Schools Campaign.