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NYC Kids Cook with Whole Grains

June 29, 2010

Salmon Caliente with Quinoa… Shrimp Sauté with Creamy Polenta… Seared Salmon with Asparagus and Carrot Brown Rice Risotto…

These sound like menu choices at one of New York City’s top restaurants, but in fact they’re the creations of New York City middle school teams, from Harlem and the Bronx, participating in the Iron Go! Chefs Competition on June 11.

The junior chefs had just one hour to cook and plate the meals, using recipes they had researched and chosen themselves. The challenge posed by the Children’s Aid Society, which organized the competition, was to prepare a delicious, balanced, and healthy lunch or dinner including

At least one non-meat protein (fish, beans, cheese, eggs)
At least two vegetables or fruits of different colors
A whole grain

Teams were also  required to avoid using prepared ingredients such as salad dressings, sauces and dips, although minimally-processed ingredients such as canned beans or canned tomatoes were okay.



Five judges rated the teams on cooperation, cleanliness and safety, taste, originality and healthfulness, and presentation, and the winners, as announced by Children's Aid, were:

  • Taking the award for the Most Healthful Dish was the tasty whole wheat pasta with beans and veggies created by the I.S. 98 Chefettes.

  • Best Teamwork award went to the Mirabal Sister’s Campus Food Fighters for their collaborative efforts on the Omelet a la Mirabal and Papaya Strawberry Smoothie.

  • The award for Best Presentation went to the home team, the East Harlem Center Mighty Bites (pictured at the top of the page), for their decorative Salmon Caliente with Quinoa, Asiago Asparagus and Spiced Sweet Potato Wedges.

  • The award for Most Original Dish went to I.S. 166’s Fire and Spice team for their creative Seared Salmon with Asparagus and Carrot Brown Rice Risotto.

  • The awards for Best Tasting Dish and Best All Around in the competition went to the Fannie Lou Hamer Saute Champions (photo above) for their perfectly executed and delicious tasting Shrimp Saute with Creamy Polenta and Pesto Sauce.

We found out about this great project from WGC Culinary Advisor Lorna Sass (pictured below), who was one of the five judges. “I was amazed and delighted at the results,” said Lorna, as she told us about the program. (You can see a short newsclip by clicking here or see more photos here.) We looked into the background of the Iron Go!Chefs competition and that ol’ amazement and delight spread even further.



We learned that the Children’s Aid Society started running an umbrella program called Go!Healthy in 2003. Now, seven years later, Go!Healthy has a range of programs that encourage healthy eating, including:

  • Go!Chefs, which introduces young people ages 2 through 21 to the joys of preparing and eating ‘real food’ that is both nutritious and delicious

  • Go!Healthy Parents, a six-week program for parents, including healthful cooking, stress reduction and movement

  • Go!Kids, a twenty-four-week food and fitness curriculum

  • Healthy Meals, an initiative to keep meals served by Children’s Aid to the highest standards of nutrition, freshness and appeal

  • Next Generation Caterers, to teach healthy foodservice skills to Bronx youth ages 14-24.

  • Youthmarkets, school-based farmers’ markets run by students  

Kudos to Stefania Patinella, officially Director of Food and Nutrition Programs (a.k.a. “Children’s Aid’s queen of healthy living”) for her efforts in helping kids connect with good food – and for making whole grains the but-of-course norm in her programs. Contact Stefania if you want to help or learn more. (Cindy)


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