A Low Country Feast Wins Cooking up Change Detroit

April 27, 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.

Student chefs Jalen, Katelynn and Ray were studying food trends from different regions of the U.S. They knew they wanted to create a soul food-inspired recipe for Cooking up Change, so they looked to South Carolina.

And their creation blew away judges at the Cooking up Change Detroit contest last month. Their menu? Low Country Chicken and Collards Pilau, Country Coleslaw, and Peanut Butter and Cracker Stackers.

But finding inspiration was just the start for creating a successful recipe for Cooking up Change, which follows the same nutrition and budget requirements as the school food program in Detroit Public Schools (DPS). “We did not realize that there were such strict guidelines in the school lunch program,” Katelynn says. “We had to learn what is considered a portion size for meat, grains and vegetables.”

The students also had to be mindful of their budget ($1.00-$1.20 per serving) and nutrition requirements—including fat. “It was really hard to come up with a lower-fat recipe—especially when you are used to eating everything you want,” says Jalen. “We learned how to flavor our food with different ingredients and spices.”

Based on these challenges, the student chefs got insight into how healthy school meals are created. “We just told Ms. Gloria (our lunch lady) that we have a new respect for the DPS Food and Nutrition Dept.,” says Ray. “It’s a lot of work to come up with lunch ideas that other kids will enjoy and eat.”

For all of the Detroit student chefs, cooking started as a family affair. Jalen cooking his first meal for his father on Father’s Day six years ago, and Katelynn and Ray have been learning from their parents, aunts and grandmothers. “Everyone cooks in my family, so, not to be left out or outdone, I am learning to cook,” Katelynn says. “I have some great teachers at home and school.”

Similarly, all the student chefs are looking forward to traveling to Washington, D.C, to show off their food, their school and their district. “I am looking forward to meeting other students across the U.S. and showing them good things come out of Detroit Public Schools,” says Jalen.

Congratulations to the winning Detroit team—and all the Detroit student chefs—for proving that school meals can be healthy and delicious!

Here are all the teams that competed in Detroit:

Breithaupt CTC Team 1
Student Chefs: Maleah, Arielle and Deja
Menu: Cheesy Roasted Veggie Lasagna, Popeye’s Delight and Orchard Deluxe

Breithaupt CTC Team 2
Student Chefs: Colbie, Justice and Khalil
Menu: Tangy Italian Chicken Breast, Broccoli Rigatoni and Strawberry Delight

Golightly CTC Team 1
Student Chefs: Jalen, Katelynn and Ray
Menu: Low Country Chicken and Collards Pilau, Country Coleslaw, and Peanut Butter & Cracker Stackers

Golightly CTC Team 2
Student Chefs: Geovoni, LaSonia and Latrice
Menu: Chicken Shwarma, Middle Eastern Tomato & Cucumber Salad and Fruit and Graham Cracker Crumble