Cooking up Change with Winston-Salem

March 29, 2012 | Written By:

Students in Winston-Salem are creating a healthy future for school food! We are happy announce that culinary trio Brianda Cisnenos Hernandez, Mari Jose Gorgon, and Jarion Southerland took first place in the local contest and will represent their city in the Cooking up Change national finals this May!  The North Carolinians will join teams from Chicago, Denver, Jacksonville, St. Louis, and Santa Ana at the national finals in Washington, DC.

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Cooking up Change Winston-Salem winners Mari Jose Gorgon, Brianda Cisnenos Hernandez, and Jarion Southerland

When the first-time competitors heard the winning announcement, they were surprised and really nervous. Reynolds High School student Jarion said, “After we found out, it felt like a dream!” 

The gracious team was proud of their teamwork, but most proud of their peers. Reagan High School student Mari Jose noted, “I’m proud of my team, they’re good to work with! I’m proud of everyone that was in the competition. They worked really hard.” 

Team members also emphasized the value of healthy school food to education and long-term health. “We all need energy, to be fit and to concentrate at school, do well at school,” said student chef Brianda. “Education is the number one thing, and you need a nutritious meal to be able to focus.”

The three unanimously agreed that the best part of the contest was learning to work well under pressure. “It’s like an adrenaline rush that goes through you. You think time is running out and you just want to get things done,” said Parkland High School’s Brianda, who cried when the shock wore off. Her teammates credit her with naming their “Mexican-themed, Southern flare” entree, el taco loco, black beans and veggies, and a homestyle apple pie tortilla. Their taco contains diced chicken, onions, peppers, tomatoes, jalapenos and lime juice in a whole wheat tortilla.

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Cooking up Change winning student-created meal

Congratulations Brianda, Mari Jose, and Jarion!

Learn more about the Cooking up Change healthy cooking contest on our blog or at

Bonus: Check out Winston-Salem/Forsythe School District’s spotlight on the Cooking up Change contest.

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