Future Chefs shine

Elementary school finalists in the Sodexo Future Chefs Challenge held Saturday at Yaquina View School prepare their dishes for judging. School nutritional staff served as sous chefs for the first- through fifth-grade contestants as their families watched and cheered. (Photos by Kenneth Lipp) Katie Trinidad, a second-grader at Siletz Valley Charter School, stands next to her prize package after winning the gold medal during the Sodexo Future Chefs Challenge on Saturday. Trinidad’s winning recipe was a homemade version of SpaghettiOs. She moves on to the semifinals, where she’ll compete via video.

NEWPORT — A homemade version of “SpaghettiOs” won the gold medal in the Sodexo Future Chefs Challenge at Yaquina View Elementary School on Saturday, March 7.

The challenge invites first- through fifth-grade students to create school lunch recipes for judging based on creativity, nutrition, ease of preparation, kid appeal, use of featured ingredients and taste. The collective menu served up by elementary schoolers on Saturday was diverse, although, as one might expect, there was no shortage of pizza variations.

The chef behind the winning recipe, Katie Trinidad, a second-grader at Siletz Valley Charter School, will now join students from 30 states in the semi-final competition, who will then be pared down to five finalists. Those five will film three-minute videos to be voted on by the public this spring.

This is the 10th year Sodexo has held the challenge, and the seventh that schools in Lincoln County have participated. In 2018, then-fourth-grader Evan Morgan, from Waldport Elementary School, made it to the top five.

The silver medal on Saturday went to third-grader Wyatt Barger from Sam Case Elementary for his mushrooms vol-au-vent, and Revik Larsen, a Yaquina View first-grader, took home the bronze for his “walk-a-mole,” an avocado toast dish.

Judges’ choice was Blaisen Montgomery’s hummus recipe. Liam Pollett won best plate presentation for his imaginative “dragon’s egg in a nest,” a Scotch egg dish on a bed of potato fries, and Madison Perryman won best table presentation for the western decor she created to match her cheesy corndog muffins.

Sixteen students from every school in the district, whose recipes had been selected from more than 50 written entries in a preliminary round of judging, donned tonques blanche and double-breasted chef coats for the cookoff. Students were assisted by school nutritional staff.

Cooking tables were arranged in three-quarter round, with an audience of family members in the middle cheering on their tiny cuisiniers. Contestants presented their plates for tasting by adult judges, who also walked the tables during the cooking to watch dishes come together.

Judges were Kristin Takano Becker, principal at Yaquina View Elementary; Shelley Moore, principal at Sam Case Elementary; Jamie Nicholson, the district’s child nutrition manager; and Lincoln County School District Superintendent Karen Gray.

It’s Moore’s third year judging the contest. She said kids create more than just delicious recipes — some of which she gets to take home with her. They also gain valuable experience with trial and error and learn lessons on adapting to life’s everyday roadblocks in a nurturing environment.

“I think they get a way to take a safe risk, put out there what they know and share what they’ve learned — to succeed, and fail and try again, and start over and be resourceful in the moment in a way that’s supportive of their development. It’s a way to embrace that there are other ways to be involved in extracurricular activities besides just athletics,” the principal said.

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