Cooking up Change National Healthy Cooking Contest Winners Reflect, Look Ahead

June 06, 2012

It has been quite a whirlwind for Cooking up Change champion Santa Ana student chefs Alex, Ivan, and Ashley since they won first place in the national healthy cooking contest.

We had a chance to catch up with the Valley High School culinary students as they reflected on their national win.

“It feels really emotional, really exciting,” said team member Alex. “We worked really hard to create a dish that was under a dollar and with the nutritional processes. It was quite challenging, but overall it was amazing.”

CuC_SA12_0330rszThe first-time competitors prepared lemon and spinach chicken with Tuscan bean salad and cinnamon poached pears. (Pictured left)

A tearful chef instructor Monica Aguilar described the winning moment: “I was breathless, I was so very excited, beaming with pride for my students and what they've accomplished.”

“For the last three years, I’ve seen them grow amazingly,” she added. “In this last year with Cooking up Change, its been like a growth spurt for them. To see their character, their skill level, just the people they’ve come. It’s amazing and to see the transformation, it’s incredible.”


Each team member received a scholarship to further their education. All three aspiring chefs plan to attend Orange Coast College beginning this summer. Ivan is looking forward to starting his career. His teammate Ashley said her goal is to “continue our path, become culinary artists” and to continue to “take into deep consideration how being healthy is a actually a lifestyle. I’m looking forward to doing it in the future.”

Although they’ll be graduating this year and no longer eating school lunch, they understand the impact their meal has in creating meaningful change. “It might not impact us directly because we’re about to graduate from school, but we’ve seen the changes that people are trying make,” Ashley  said. “The fact that my niece and my little sister can have different food in school is better for everyone.”

CuC_SA12_0497rsz

The Cooking up Change Santa Ana student chefs Alex, Ashley, and Ivan

A proud Alex expressed his hopes for the future. “I hope we get a chance to serve our meal in our community and maybe local markets, present it and tell people more about it,” he said. “Thats my vision, I want to make a change. We are going to cook up change, we are going to change how everyone eats.”

Since returning home, the students have been featured in their local paper. They have also been spotlighted on NBC Los Angeles. Check out a special segment below:

Kudos Santa Ana!