FHTMS students Sauté, Sizzle & Succeed in the Kitchen

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Thursday April 19, 2012

The cafeteria at F.H. Tuttle Middle School was filled recently with family and friends enjoying a healthful meal together.  They were not only there to eat, however; they were awaiting the first round of judging in this year’s Second Annual Rebel Chef Competition.

The Rebel Chef Competition began in 2011, with the hope of teaching middle school students how to cook with local Vermont ingredients, while imparting the value of working as a team in the kitchen. In the process, students also experience the value of supporting local agriculture—not only in supporting the local economy, but also with the quality of the ingredients themselves.

This year’s participation was even greater than the year before, and students were turned away because of the overwhelming interest.  This time around, there were eight teams, each comprised of five-seven middle schoolers, compared to last year’s six teams. Two to three adult volunteers oversaw the four weekly meetings that led up to the competition, and assisted the students in formulating and perfecting a recipe.  Some of the suggested local ingredients were:  beets, carrots, celeriac, parsnips, squash, kale, wheat berries, buttermilk, cheddar cheese, black beans, tofu, and eggs.

On the night of the competition, each team was only allowed to use cue cards to remember their roles and a recipe that they had formulated themselves.  One hour and fifteen minutes was set on the clock, as the teams worked fervently to perfect the taste and presentation of their dish.  The adult leaders were not permitted to help in the kitchen—all the work was to be completed only by the middle school students.

The panel of judges consisted of individuals with differing roles in the community: Winton Goodrich (District Assistant Superintendent), Irene Sauer (Kitchen Manager at SBHS), Greg Soll (Farmer/Owner of Sol Fresh Farm, Hinesburg), and Judy Kearns (Publisher, The Other Paper, South Burlington).

Each team was given the opportunity to present their dish to the judges after detailing the main ingredients to the audience.  The teams served their dishes in various ways—including in colorful stoneware and on cafeteria trays.  All eight teams also decided to dress in similar garb for the competition.  Many wore chef hats, while others color-coordinated their outfits and aprons.

When the judges had tasted all eight dishes, they retreated to another room to discuss and decide on three winners for three separate categories.  During this time, the audience continued to enjoy the food that was cooked and served by PTO volunteers.  There was also a smoothie bike—a bike that allows you to blend a smoothie using leg power alone—for kids and interested adults to try out during the evening.

After careful deliberation by the judges, the winners were announced under the three categories. 

The first category—Best Use for a School Menu—was presented to the Soup-A-Stars for their “Confetti Quesadilla with Avocado Cream Sauce.”

The second category—Best Use of Local Ingredients—went to the Veggie Ninjas, for their self-titled, “Veggie Ninja Pie.”

And, finally, the third category—Best Overall Dish—was given to the Cooking Monsters and their “Potage Aux Legumes Dans un Pain,” or “Vegetable Soup in Bread.”

All eight teams were congratulated for their efforts and tasty and innovative creations.  The other teams that participated in the competition were:  the Buddies, Curry it Up!, Kawai Carrots, The Chop Chop Girls, and the Chefs of South Burlington.

SOURCE: Mollie Silver, SB Farm-to-School Coordinator & Megan Brancaccio, Common Roots Food Educator