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West Valley City Journal

Fourth- graders get cookin’ for title of Future Chef

Mar 27, 2017 11:42AM ● By Bryan Scott

Rachel Adair won first place, for her dish “Rachel’s Fantastic Mole Chili.” (Aspen Perry/City Journals).

By Aspen Perry  |   [email protected]

On March 3, 24 fourth-grade students from throughout Granite School District filled the kitchens of the Granite Education Center (GEC) Café to compete for a chance to win the title of Sodexo Future Chef 2017.

Sodexo Future Chefs is a national competition, which initially began with lunch managers and Sodexo chefs competing and then transitioned into kids cooking as a way to encourage healthy habits by incorporating the popular societal response to becoming a chef.

“There was such a movement in society where people wanted to become chefs, and it was a career path choice … seems to bring out a lot of fun for the kids,” said Jeff Gratton, Sodexo executive chef for Granite School District.

Granite School District contracts with Sodexo to manage the food program that feeds 66,000 students, according to Rich Prall, director of food services with Granite School District.

For the Future Chef 2017 competition, more than 200 students submitted recipes based on the requirement of making comfort food healthy.

From those 200 recipe submissions, 24 students were chosen to compete and were judged on the following criteria: healthy attribution, kid appeal, ease of preparation, plate presentation, originality and taste with a winner in each category. The first-place winner will go on to compete in the regional championship, with the regional winner moving on to the national championship.

In 2016, Elk Run Elementary student Madysun Christensen was the Sodexo Future Chef national winner with her ‘boil-in-a-bag omelet’ for the healthy breakfast challenge.

When asked what Madysun most enjoyed about being a past winner, she responded, “Meeting all the good people that work here.”

The kitchens at GEC Café were a flurry of activity as each student prepped their meals and guided their sous chefs — cafeteria managers of their school, or Granite Technical Institute Culinary students for the competitors whose school cafeteria manager could not compete.  

Many future chefs prepared family recipes they had improved upon.

“This is like my great-grandma’s recipe. My mom made it a lot when I was little,” said Mara Keller from Morningside.

Mara named her dish “Grandma Elsie’s Stuffed Bell Peppers. When asked what she enjoyed most about cooking, Mara said, “(I) love doing this myself, and all the good smells.”

Competitors and their sous chefs were required to prepare 50 samples of their dish, as well as a presentation plate for the three judges to critique. Once the judges finished their critiques, families were allowed in for tasting.

For some student chefs, the reaction of tasters was as much fun as cooking their dish, as Connor Campbell of Elk Run Elementary said of his “Swiss Chicken and Rice.” “My favorite part was when the judges came around; they were nice and liked my food.”

When judging and tasting was complete, competitors and their family filled the announcement room, eager to hear the winners be announced.

Toby Fairbanks of Oakwood was given the award of healthy attributes for his “Ninja Turtle Power Juice.”

Mara Keller of Morningside was awarded the category of kid appeal for her great-grandma’s stuffed bell peppers.

Kenzie Sheppick of Academy Park earned the award for ease of preparation for her jalapeño nachos.

Janet Crane of Whittier was awarded best plate presentation for her apple pie rolls.

Conner Campbell of Elk Run took the award for originality for his Swiss chicken and rice.

Madelinn Peterson of Oakridge won the award for taste for her ground-turkey shepherd’s pie.

The first-place title went to Rachel Adair of Monroe for her family recipe she named “Rachel’s Fantastic Mole Chili,” a dish that started as one of her favorite dinners her mother made.

“It is her favorite meal, so she learned how to cook it on her own and took it over,” said Jeannie Adair, Rachel’s mother.

Rachel beamed with pride as she accepted the first-place trophy. She will now cook in the regionals for a chance to enter the national competition.