Kid chefs compete to become breakfast champion

McKenna Adkins, fourth grader at Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary School, divvies out her mixture for her Granola Fruit Cup, the winning entry into the Future Chefs contest on Thursday at Hilda J. Barbour Elementary School in Front Royal. Rachel Mahoney/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Hilda J. Barbour Elementary School’s kitchen smelled like a sweet mix of breakfast nutrition after school on Thursday.

Fourth and fifth graders from Warren County elementary schools competed in the county’s 2016 Sodexo Future Chefs contest. This year’s contest called for healthy breakfast recipes.

Five students’ recipes were chosen for the contest by Stephanie Steed, child nutrition program specialist, and SueAnn Fox, food service coordinator for the schools. Steed said as long as the recipe is simple and healthy, the students have a lot of room to dream up a unique dish.

“The children are being able to get into the kitchen and be creative,” she said. “They have all these new children’s cooking shows on TV now.”

The panel of judges this year included Superintendent Greg Drescher, Blue Ridge Technical Center culinary arts teacher Devin Smith and Debra Drescher, instructional specialist. They rated the students’ recipes on originality, health attributes, ease of preparation, kid friendly factor, plate presentation and, of course, taste.

Amanda Genari, fifth grader at Hilda J. Barbour Elementary School, adds Greek yogurt to her Healthy Fruity Oat Smoothie entry into the Future Chefs contest Thursday afternoon. Rachel Mahoney/Daily

Students donned their Sodexo chef’s hat and coat and headed into Hilda J. Barbour’s kitchen to get cooking. School cafeteria managers helped them gather their ingredients and handle the tricky parts. Many of the entries this year included granola in the mix.

When finished, the students would get a glamour shot of their grub before it went out to the judges for a taste test. After she totaled up the scores, Fox announced the results.

At the end of the day, Leslie Fox Keyser fourth grader McKenna Adkins’ Granola Fruit Cup recipe earned her Sodexo’s golden chef trophy and basket of cooking goodies – including a Fitbit.

McKenna said she got inspiration from recipes online, but added her own twist to the crunchy breakfast treat. Though she said she doesn’t often help cook at home, she’s learning to help make her favorite breakfast dish – pancakes.

Fox said the contest was very close, down to only a few points. The other four finalists took home a framed certificate and glowing clear trophy, along with their hat, coat and thermometer from Sodexo. They all took photos with Lift-Off, the company’s mascot that appears next to healthy choices on students’ menus.

Judge Devin Smith, center, looks a fifth grader Amanda Genari's Healthy Fruity Oat Smoothie recipe entry into the Future Chefs contest. "She just brought the beach to me," he said. Other judges included Greg Drescher, left, and Debra Drescher. Rachel Mahoney/Daily

Other recipes included a fruit smoothie, chewy granola mix, fruit-topped breakfast cookie and a more savory breakfast wrap with eggs and vegetables.

McKenna’s recipe and finished dish photo will go to Sodexo’s regional contest, which will occur in April. From there, her creation could go to the national level.

Granola Fruit Cup
By McKenna Adkins

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup quick oats
1 cup chopped pecans
½ cup honey
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup freeze dried strawberries
½ cup powdered milk
¼ cup oil
½ cup water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine all ingredients together.
3. Line muffin tins with muffin liners or spray muffin tin.
4. Spoon mixture into muffin tin.
5. Bake for 20 minutes.
6. Top with fruit.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com

Phoenix Carter, fourth grader at A.S. Rhodes Elementary School, dishes out her Happy Day Cookie for display at the Future Chefs contest. Rachel Mahoney/Daily

Beth Greenwell, fourth grader at Hilda J. Barbour Elementary, gets ready to dish out her Good Chewy Granola recipe for the Future Chefs contest. Rachel Mahoney/Daily