Thursday April 11, 2013
One by one, groups of sixth, seventh, and eighth graders filtered into the Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School (FHTMS) cafeteria, gathered around, and started dressing in costumes on Wednesday, March 27.
The costumes included aprons, toques, and—for one group—fake, French-inspired mustaches. These students were not dressing for fun, but rather, acting in a serious role. They were all contenders for the 3rd Annual Rebel Chef Competition: a school-wide cook-off.
Rebel Chef has proved a rapidly-growing tradition since it first began in 2011. The number of participants each year has steadily increased to a whopping nine complete teams in this year’s competition. Teams have always been accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis, and must have an adult coach volunteer.
This year, the teams practiced once a week for eight weeks in a school kitchen with their coach, so that they could perfect a vegetarian recipe that would take the prize for one or more of three categories: “Best Overall Dish,” “Most Adaptable for a School Meal,” and “Best Use of Local Ingredients.”
The experience of creating a dish using vegetarian and primarily local ingredients in the middle of March encourages students to try foods they probably have never had before.
“The competition was hard because you couldn’t use meat,” 6th grade student Leila Woel said. “I had never had sweet potatoes in a burrito before.”
At exactly 4:30 p.m., an announcement was made over the intercom by Sheri Rand, the Assistant Principal at FHTMS: “All teams may now begin cooking!”
While teams worked quickly to successfully complete their dish before 6 p.m., families and community members waited in the cafeteria. They were not left without entertaining options, however.
South Burlington Nutritional Services offered a homemade lasagna dinner to the public, FHTMS Guidance Counselor, Matt Guyette, brought the school’s “Fuel-Up Play 60” bicycle blender and gave away free strawberry-banana smoothies, and the non-profit Common Roots set up a complimentary seed-starting station.
As the clock neared six, all nine teams had already placed their dishes on the judging table and could finally relax before the winners were announced.
“I was nervous to see what the judges would say,” member of team El Sinco, Haley Vespa-LaPointe, said, “But we felt like we worked hard enough to win something.”
The judging panel included Win Goodrich (Assistant Superintendent), Karsten Schlenter (FHTMS Principal), Margaret Pasqual (FHTMS Main Office Secretary), Greg Soll (a local farmer from Hinesburg, VT), and Sarah O’Rourke (8th grade student at FHTMS).
After nearly an hour of deliberation, the first category’s winner was announced. The award for “Best Use of Local Ingredients” was presented to The Four Tomatoes for their “Lasagna Vegetal”.
The second category—“Most Adaptable for a School Meal”—went to The T-Team for their “Green Mountain Pizza”.
And, finally, the third category—“Best Overall Dish”—was awarded to the top three teams. In first place was The Four Tomatoes; second Place went to The Ate Balls with their “Vermont Cheddar Farm House Soup;” and Third Place went to The Mighty Macs with their “Mac ‘n’ More”.
All students received certificates for their efforts, and some are already looking forward to next year’s competition.
SOURCE: Megan Brancaccio, Common Roots Food Educator and Mollie Silver, South Burlington Farm to School Coordinator