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The City Journals

Kid chefs get a taste of competition

Mar 28, 2017 03:58PM ● By Bryan Scott

Aaron Chuav was very proud of his healthy version of “White Chicken Chili.” (Carla Dalton/Granite District Food Services)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Granite District received 200 recipes from fourth-graders throughout the district and chose 24 of the best to compete in the 2017 Future Chefs Healthy Comfort Food Challenge held March 3.

Students from four Taylorsville schools were selected to compete.

Aaron Chuav, from Taylorsville Elementary, created a recipe for White Chicken Chili. When discussing possible recipes, he and his mom decided soup met the requirements for the competition’s theme of Healthy Comfort Food.

Aaron’s mom, Julie Miller, said Aaron took a recipe he likes and made healthy changes, like omitting the cream. His family has been giving him feedback.

“He’s been making it once a week for us,” said Miller.

From a very young age, Aaron has been interested in cooking. Miller said he has confidence in the kitchen, but this is the first time she’s really let him be in control of a recipe from start to finish. This first taste of competition has made him hungry to do it again, she said.

There were no accidents while students prepared their dishes in the kitchens at the Granite Education Center Cafe. Aaron said the biggest dangers in the kitchen are burns and cuts. He uses child-sized knives at home, but during the competition, the chopping was done by nutrition service workers and ProStart students from the Granite Technical Institute, who were paired with each contestant.

Amber Jackson, the kitchen manager at Bennion Elementary, was the sous chef helping Belma Hrkovic, the finalist from Bennion. This was Jackson’s fourth year assisting a student at this competition.

“Just to get them into the kitchen and watch them do their thing is really fun to see,” she said.

Jackson assisted Belma in making her Terrific Tomato Best Basil Super Soup with Yummy Garlic Bread. Belma loves her mom’s tomato soup recipe so she modified it to be more simplistic and quicker to prepare.

To earn bonus points in the scoring of her dish, Belma chose to use wheat baguettes for her garlic bread. Her mom, Snjezana Hrkovic, said Belma is very aware of healthy substitutes because she accommodates the various dietary restrictions of her family members. Cooking is something the whole family enjoys doing together, said Hrkovic.

Belma’s fourth-grade teacher, April Stevenson, has had several students compete in this contest over the last few years. To get her class excited about entering, she invites past participants to share their experiences. As a result, 36 fourth-graders from Bennion submitted recipes this year.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for students to have a real-life experience where their passion might turn into something,” said Stevenson.

Gwen McFalls, the contestant from Fox Hills Elementary, said she only recently became interested in cooking when her family moved in with her grandparents. Her grandma loves to cook, and Gwen discovered that she loves to help her. Gwen prefers making desserts, but she created a healthier option by adding fresh strawberries to her muffin recipe.

Ricardo Gonzalez, from Fremont Elementary, cooked Zesty Alfredo. He adapted the recipe to include whole wheat noodles. Then he added extra lemon and orange zest to the sauce. Ricardo practiced his recipe with his mom several times before making it two times by himself to prepare for the competition.

The annual food challenge is only open to fourth-grade chefs. Michelle Berry, from Granite Foods Communication Department, said it is because fourth-graders are old enough to use kitchen tools, follow a recipe and are willing to try new flavors. District staff members also teach a nutrition class in fourth-grade classrooms.

Recipes were judged on the following: healthy attributes, kid appeal, ease of preparation, presentation, originality and taste. One winner in each category was selected at the end of the afternoon. The overall grand prize winner, Rachel Adair, from Monroe Elementary, advanced to the regional event.