MARYSVILLE – Students donned their tall white chef’s hats and aprons and cooked up healthy Asian fusion-inspired recipes for the 2018 Sodexo Future Chefs Challenge on Thursday.
This is the first time that Marysville schools have participated in the national healthy cooking competition hosted by Sodexo, the school district’s food service contractor.
Judging by the smells wafting through the Food Commons at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, there were more than a few cooks in the kitchen with the culinary skills to be junior master chefs.
Latoya Morris, food and nutrition director for Sodexo said, “The challenge is part of our national initiative to promote healthy food choices while encouraging kids to get active and creative in the kitchen.”
Parents, students and staff also attended to support their favorite cooks.
The challenge pitted 10 young chefs from the 3rd, 4th and 5th grades representing Marshall, Kellogg Marsh, Liberty, Quil Ceda Tulalip, Allen Creek, Grove and Sunnyside elementary schools.
When it was time to announce winners, Grove Elementary’s Joshua Earnheart took first place for his Chicken Cauliflower Fried “Rice,” Liberty third-grader Cale Bennett finished second with his Chow Mein Chicken Salad and Allen Creek third-grader Kennedy O’Day took third with an Asian Shrimp Omelet.
Students’ work was judged on originality, taste, healthy attributes, ease of preparation, plate presentation, use of featured ingredients provided and for good measure, kid appeal.
“Cooking gives me something to do,” said second-place finisher Cale, 9, who sat with his family and a cooling plate of school tater tots and chicken nuggets.
Cale said his cuisine leans toward making breakfast for his family – pancakes, waffles and cheese, but he also enjoys cooking with and eating vegetables anytime, especially tomatoes.
He put his odds of winning at 50 percent to 75 percent.
Monet Clemens from Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary said she enjoys cooking at home, and she thought it would be fun to represent her school at the challenge.
“I like cooking because it’s something distracting instead of watching TV,” she said. “Cooking is just something I enjoy.”
Asian fusion cooking is a bit out of her comfort zone, but she appreciated the supervision she got from the adult cooks while she prepared her Asian Peanut Noodles dish.
Her specialty is spaghetti. She makes enough to share with everyone in her house.
Jaydan Goetz, also from Quil Ceda, said he had a good time showing off his cooking skills. He chose a Sweet Spicy Chicken Wrap to impress the judges.
Jayden couldn’t list off the top of his head what he likes to cook and eat most often, but he did remember what he had that day. “I ate a Nutella sandwich.”
The eight judges that included City Council, school board and Rotary Club members were wowed by the flavor-rich samples they got to eat and rate.
School Board Member Pete Lundberg was impressed.
“It’s wonderful that kids have a way to express themselves in so many ways, and cooking, as one of those ways, is sometimes under-appreciated,” he said.
Debbie Barger Smith said she would encourage the young chefs to follow their passion.
“Some of them were very focused in the kitchen when they were preparing their dishes,” Smith said.
“The Future Chef’s event was an amazing opportunity for our students, and an excellent event that brought parents, community members, and district partners and departments together in support of students,” district spokeswoman Emily Wicks said.
Winners move on to regional and national competition.
Last year, students from 256 school districts joined more than 2,500 other students representing 1,300 Sodexo-served school site in 30 states.