Microwave chefs compete at St. Mary’s assembly

BY BRIDGET FLYNN bflynn@saukvalley.com 800-798-4085 ext. 521
Created: Saturday, October 1, 2011 1:15 a.m. CDT

STERLING – St. Mary’s School students on Friday learned to make a meal that started with a healthy apple almond salad and was capped by a dessert of wormy pizza with whole-wheat tortillas.

The school’s “microwave chef” event was inspired by the Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” show. But the students used microwaves to cook their ham and cheese roll-ups instead of open flames.

St. Mary’s School fourth-grader Joselyn Reed, 9, hands a chicken salad to guest judges of the Sterling school’s ‘microwave chef” cooking competition during Friday’s Fit Fun for Kids assembly. Teams of students made foods that judges evaluated based on taste, presentation, creativity and teamwork. (David Rauch/drauch@saukvalley.com)

The Fit Fun for Kids assembly was part of a health initiative at the school which includes the CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child’s Health) program.

Three third-graders were chosen as sous chefs, while three fourth-graders were food couriers who took banana boats and cookie cutter nacho sammies to the judges. Three students each from grades five through eight were the chefs. The students were divided into teams to work together on their culinary creations.

The student chefs were chosen based on essays judged by students from Newman Central Catholic High School’s National Honor Society.

While students topped their strawberry delights with whipped cream or adorned their mixed salad greens and fruit with cinnamon tortilla strips, they were captured on a live video camera. A live feed was sent to a projector so the audience could watch.

The judges were Sherry DeWalt, CGH Health Foundation; Father Bruce Ludeke, Sacred Heart Parish Catholic Church; Father Don Ahles, St. Mary’s Church; Karen Zuidema, St. Mary’s cook; Sterling Township Supervisor Matt Howze; and Whiteside County Regional Superintendent of Education Bob Sondgeroth.

The students were judged on taste, presentation, creativity and teamwork. The winning team consisted of Ryan Heuerman, third grade; Joselyn Reed, fourth grade; Savannah Skinner, fifth grade; Bailey Boeson, sixth grade; Jordan Cubas, seventh grade; and Jeremy Henson, eighth grade. They won with a menu of sunshine salad, chicken salad triangles, wormy pizza and their groovy smoothie.

The “red” team won because it was very conscious of presentation and well organized, said their supervisor, second grade teacher Maureen Gaimey. The team had two people work on each recipe, she said.

While the student chefs chopped red peppers and blended smoothies, some students were pulled from the audience to participate in the school’s version of “Fear Factor.”

A pomegranate, mango, avocado, pear and plum were placed in the hands of blindfolded students, who were asked to guess what they were holding. After guessing, they were challenged to eat the fruit.

Principal Tom DePasquale said he thought the students enjoyed the activity and that the event provided a good nutrition lesson.

“We felt it was important to teach them to make a healthy meal,” he said.

The school has not decided whether it will have the event annually, DePasquale said.

The recipes were created by Jill Walter and the nutrition team was from Destination Fitness.