The chefs were moving around the kitchen like busy bees in their hive, dicing, chopping, frying and mixing their recipes together. Elementary school students from around Albany County School District No. 1 got to be chefs Wednesday night as they competed in the Sodexo Future Chefs Cooking Competition at the Laramie High School Commons.
Each Future Chef participant dressed the part in the white coat and hat as they cooked their chosen recipe with the help of an assistant chef. The judges tasted each dish and chose one winner to advance to the regional competition.
Jill Dunn, ACSD No. 1 food services general manager, said the competition helps the students explore outlets other than sports or academics.
“It brings together community spirit, and it also teaches the kids that there are other outlets in life they can choose to do,” Dunn said.
This year’s winner, Anna Kaiser, won with her dish, Barcos de Aguacate, also known as avocado boats. The fourth-grader at Indian Paintbrush Elementary School said she was inspired to join the competition after watching a cooking show she loves.
“We basically went through a lot of our cook books, and [the recipe] seemed really healthy and it was very simple, because I don’t really know how to make complicated dishes,” Kaiser said.
Kaiser added her favorite part was chopping the ingredients and making the filling.
Although she had help from her assistant chef, Robin Baldwin, she admitted she was a little nervous as she quickly prepared the dish.
“I was worried if I was going to get it done on time,” Kaiser said.
When she was announced the winner, Kaiser’s mouth dropped in surprise. She said winning was “really exciting” and the competition as a whole was “really fun.”
Kaiser was one of 10 second- through fifth-grade students participating in the competition from a variety of schools, including Centennial Elementary School, Beitel Elementary School and the University of Wyoming Lab School. All the participants submitted dishes to fit the theme, “Fiesta fit – healthy Mexican food,” including dishes like black bean quesadillas and “Mexican muffins.”
“We’re trying to teach our kids to eat healthy, that way, we’ll hopefully some day reduce the obesity rate in kids,” Dunn said.
Each participant went home with a T-shirt and a cookbook, regardless of where they placed in the competition. In addition to the chance to have her recipe compete at the regional competition later this spring, Kaiser received a prize of a new set of cookware to continue cooking and trying new recipes.
The competition’s judges included ACSD No. 1 school board member Mark Bittner, ACSD No. 1 Superintendent Jubal Yennie, ACSD No. 1 business manager Ed Goetz, Laramie Junior High School Family Consumer Science Department head Dodie Heggie and Mathew Branson, head chef at UW’s Washakie Dining Center.