Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Part I: Iron Chef, the kid's edition

The winning entry from Fireside Elementary: Sweet and Sour Chicken 
Last week, my local school district held their Elementary School Iron Chef competition. I attended as the Boulder, Colorado Ambassador for the Food Revolution. The Food Revolution promotes food education (the primary mission of School of Eating Good) but also works in the community to improve school lunch. This competition hits both: the competitors learn a lot about cooking and real food AND the winning team's lunch dish gets put on the district's menu for the next academic year. How cool is that?

The competitors are all students in kindergarten through 5th grade. And they have a tall task: to come up with a lunch meal that meets the USDA nutrition guidelines for school lunches, that comes in under $1.20 a serving (more on this in a second), and it needs to taste great! The students also get points for proper sanitation and presentation. It may seem like $1.20 is a generous sum of money for a kid's lunch. But, 25¢ goes for a serving of milk and another 25¢ goes for a serving of fruit, leaving only 70¢ for the rest - a vegetable serving, a serving of a whole grain, and a protein serving. Now, that is not easy, my friends!

They are further restricted because they have to use only ingredients available to the district for food service. They don't all have to use the same "secret ingredient" like in the TV show but the time limitation is the same. The teams have an hour to do all their prep, cooking, and plating of 1 lunch plate. They did an awesome job, each and every team.

They are judged by the district managers in food service who are the chefs who run the food service for the Boulder Valley schools every school day (Deb Trevor, Sarah Acker, Eric Ditzler, Brandy Dreibelbis, and Sal Manzo), sponsors of the Iron Chef Competition, and a team of 3rd-5th graders. The student judges were totally into this. They took notes, they tried all the food, and they were so intense.

Though I didn't get to taste the food, I can tell you that it smelled incredible.

The winning entry from Fireside was Sweet and Sour Chicken with a side of roasted green peppers. Some fancy plating for their brown rice - they used a small funnel to shape it into a cone.

The other entries were (clockwise from the top left):

  • Sacred Heart's Ground Beef Goulash, showing some nifty plating skills
  • Fireside's Black Bean Soup. Secret ingredient: salsa!
  • Horizons K8's Chicken Gyros, flavored with lemon juice, garlic and oregano
  • Creekside's Lentil-Vegetable Sliders with Lime Coleslaw

That's some pretty nice looking school food. Congratulations to all the students who competed. Impressive young chefs, all of them!

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