A Healthy Twist on an Old Favorite Wins Cooking up Change Wichita

January 22, 2016

Cooking up Change competitions are happening all across the country, with winners heading to Washington, D.C., for the national finals on June 6. HSC’s Cooking up Change contest challenges high school culinary students to create a healthy and delicious school meal that can be served in a school cafeteria. Cooking up Change is not only fun and educational, it also adds student voices to the national conversation about school food.

The winning dish from this year’s Cooking up Change Wichita competition was born out of a craving—for pizza. A combination of two kinds of pizza, in fact. “We were honestly craving pizza that day,” said student chef Jessica K. “So we decided to combine our favorite pizzas: barbecue chicken and Hawaiian.”

Student chefs Nina, Jessica K. and Jessica T. from South High School wowed the judges with their menu of Barbecue Chicken Pizza Quesadilla, Steamed Vegetables with Blue Cheese Dressing and Frozen Strawberry Yogurt Bananas. The team took first place in their local competition and will travel to Washington, D.C., in June to compete in the national finals.

Their menu went through several iterations before the contest on Dec. 1, 2015. In fact, the first main dish the team tried was a stuffed pepper, but they decided to go with something they know is good—and something students across the country love: pizza.

The quesadilla part came in, Nina says, because the pizza crust didn’t have enough whole grains to meet the nutrition requirements. The team first subbed in a large whole wheat tortilla, but that left them short on calories. The combination of two smaller whole wheat tortillas did the trick, and the Barbecue Chicken Pizza Quesadilla was created.

Tweaking the recipe to meet the contest requirements helped the team better understand the world of school food. “Cooking healthy school meals is much much more difficult than I thought,” Nina said. “Now I understand why we have the food options that we have [in the cafeteria]. You have to make it healthy for all the students. Now I understand why it’s so difficult.”

The competition also helped the team realize why serving nutritious food in the school cafeteria is so important. “Most people don’t eat healthy at home, and then you can come to school and get a healthy, balanced meal,” said Jessica T.

The team will continue to perfect the preparation of their recipe leading up the national finals in Washington, D.C. None of the three student chefs have been to D.C. before and for Jessica T., this will be her first time on an airplane.

Student chefs from seven Wichita high schools participated in the city’s Cooking up Change competition, and they all did a great job. Three cheers for the following students for representing their schools and their city with some delicious—and healthy—dishes:

From East High School:
Jarrod, Courtney and Samantha – Chicken Alfredo, Green Beans and Onions and Pears ‘n’ Apples

From Heights High School:
Shaneen, Kylee and Leanne – Chicken Burrito Bowl, Parmesan Zucchini and Peanut Butter Apple Crunch

From North High School:
Victoria, Hector and Jeovante – Tex-Mex Wrap, Spicy Corn, Fruit and Yogurt Parfait

From Northwest High School:
Jakeb, Nicole and Kim – Ragu, Vegetable Medley and Fruit Medley

From Southeast High School:
Jaden, Jerrod and Natoria – Cheesy Hamburger Mac, Fresh Veggies and Fresh Fruit

From West High School:
Essau, Abbagail and Savannah – BBQ Chicken Wrap, Italian Salad and Fruit Parfait

Congrats, winning South student chefs! Can’t wait to see you again in D.C.!