Slicing, cutting and stirring, Rock Hill student chefs put their culinary expertise to the test and brought tasty visions to life.
The fifth annual Rock Hill Future Chefs culinary competition was held Tuesday at Castle Heights Middle School, where eight students cooked their most original healthy comfort foods for a panel of judges.
The nationwide competition, which is in its seventh year, is sponsored by Sodexo, a food services and facilities management company. School districts from across the country are holding Future Chef competitions through March. The winning student from each of the participating school districts will have a chance to earn a regional win.
A syrup-infused waffle-omelet combination earned Mount Gallant Elementary School student Kyra Schrouder, 9, the Rock Hill win.
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“It means a lot to me,” Kyra said.
The third-grader said she went into the competition confident of her skills, but was nervous when she entered the kitchen. However, the mix of eggs, waffle batter and omelet fillings was a hit with the judges. “I guess I had the best dish,” Kyra said.
One of the judges was Rock Hill school board member Helena Miller.
"I think this is a fantastic initiative to get kids interested in learning how to prepare healthy food,” Miller said. “Today's winner, Ms. Kyra, did a great job creating a dish that was healthy, extremely yummy and easy to prepare. My favorite part of the contest was seeing the kids work so diligently back in the kitchen."
The Rock Hill contestants, third- through fifth-graders, entered recipes in December. Tuesday, eight finalists represented the school district and cooked their recipes from scratch in Castle Heights’ kitchen, said Brittany James, district chef.
The students came up with creations such as Caprese Grilled Cheese, a Chocolate Peanut Butter Explosion Pie and a Sunrise Breakfast Pizza.
Ebinport Elementary third-grader Lillian Wren, 9, used her last name as inspiration for “Wren’s Nest,” a potato dish shaped like a bird’s nest, with an egg representing the bird. That dish earned her second place.
“Kids enjoy it,” James said. “They have fun with it, and they get to be creative. It’s something different other than the classroom. They get to showcase their personal talents.”
The students’ dishes were judged on presentation, taste and the use of healthy ingredients, James said. Recipes that used ingredients such as whole wheat noodles, low fat cheese and low fat milk earned extra points.
“It’s to promote healthy eating,” James said. “A lot of these students have shown interest in wanting a better diet.”
James said she focuses on educating students on different ingredients and giving them a healthier entertainment option besides video games.
“It’s showing them another alternative to have fun,” she said.
Ebenezer Elementary fourth-grader Elias Gibson made Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Peanut Butter Dipping Sauce and Fried Brown Rice.
Elias, 9, said he was inspired by a local noodle bar, where the owner helped him create his version of the spring roll recipe. “It’s pretty good,” he said.
The students have been practicing cooking their recipes from scratch leading up to the competition, James said. Other creations included a Rise and Shyne Breakfast Mac and Very Berry Muffins.
“They’ve been going hard because everyone wants to win,” James said. “I’m really proud of them. They’ve done really well.”
Rock Hill’s Future Chefs Competition - The Top Three
First Place: Kyra Schrouder, Mount Gallant Elementary third grader
Creation: Wam-Let (waffle omelet)
Second Place: Lillian Wren, Ebinport Elementary third grader
Creation: Wren’s Nest (potato dish)
Third Place: Emily Clemens, Old Pointe Elementary fifth grader
Creation: Caprese Grilled Cheese