Youth Face Off in Tasty Cooking Competition

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On Thursday June 7th, elementary and middle schools students from Children’s Aid Society Community Schools and Centers gathered at the East Harlem Center for the delicious food face-off called the Third Annual Iron Go!Chefs competition!

The annual Iron Go!Chefs event is the culmination of our yearlong cooking and nutrition education. Our young chefs work together in the weeks before the event to craft and test an original dish that incorporates one non-meat protein, one whole grain, and at least two vegetables or fruits. On the day of the event, youth competed in a Nutrition Bee and prepared their dishes live for a panel of expert judges. Each team won a prize—whether for best teamwork, most beautiful presentation, or for ethnic flair—and one team in each age group took home the grand prize!

In the elementary competition, students from six community schools competed to wow away the guest judges with their tasty take on school lunches. Judges were Bill Telepan, Owner and Exec Chef of Telepan Restaurant on the Upper West Side and co-founder of Wellness in the Schools, Sally Sampson of Chop Chop Magazine, Assemblyman Marcos Crespo of the 85thDistrict in the Bronx and last but not least, our very own Richard Buery, President and CEO of The Children’s Aid Society. The judges expressed delight and astonishment as dish after dish came to them perfectly prepared. It was a super close call, but C.S. 61’steam took home the award for Best Overall Dish for Pan Seared Salmon with Mediterranean Couscous. Assembly Member Crespo called the event “transformational” and gave a beautiful and impassioned talk to kids about how their dishes had opened his eyes to new foods he has been missing out on.

Competition got even tougher with our six middle school teams. Our guest judges were Rhys Powell, Founder of Red Rabbit, Chef Fernando Marulanda, Corporate Chef for the Tweedy Gomez group (Tappo, Gruppo, Posto and other thin crust pizza restaurants), Chef Alexander Smalls, Elsie Encarnacion (Youth Services Director for Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito) and Elana Wilf, friend and generous funder of our program through The Wilf Family Foundation. To the participants’ surprise, East Harlem’s very own Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez  stopped by and addressed the students about how important nutrition and healthy foods are. The South Bronx was on fire and I.S. 98 won the middle school competition with their delicious Potato-Encrusted Tilapia with Summer Fruit Salsa and Red Quinoa.

This was truly a day of fun, hard work and new food journeys. To say the least, the 2012 Iron Go! Chefs Competition is a highlight of the year! Congrats to all the participants and their teachers for all their hard work and for making healthy foods a cause for community celebration!