Meet Culinary Arts Teacher Judith Schmidt of the Jacksonville Cooking up Change Team

June 15, 2011 | Written By:

HSC was thrilled to bring together teams of culinary students from across the nation at the Cooking up Change national healthy cooking contest finals in Washington, DC last month! The team from Jacksonville, Fl. won the grand prize with their lunch of a Caribbean-inspired beef rib salad with Moroccan rice and a sweet potato corn bread muffin.

Jacksonville culinary arts instructor Judith Schmidt, who has taught culinary classes for 14 years, took a moment to chat with us at the competition. Thanks to Judith for sharing her insight, and congratulations to the entire Jacksonville team!

Culinary Arts Instructor Judith Schmidt with the Jacksonville team in Washington, DC

What do you believe is most effective in encouraging people to make healthy food choices?

I believe the most effective motivation to get young people to make better food choices comes from their peers, especially when they see their peers modeling healthy lifestyle choices. In general, people are influenced by their environment and what they have easy access to. Also, we need to make healthy food affordable and easily available.

What made you and your students want to participate in the Cooking up Change competition?

Peterson Academy was invited to participate by the school cafeteria program. I was eager to give my sophomore students this opportunity because they primarily work in the dining room [at the culinary program's full working restaurant] or get the kitchen clean-up duty at the end of the school day. This gave us the opportunity to focus on what really motivated most of these students to go into culinary arts in the first place: a love of cooking and creating.

What were some of the challenges you had to overcoming in preparing your winning meal?

The biggest challenges for our teams were carving out school time to prepare for the competition and of course making the recipes meet the USDA guidelines.  

This has been a real eye-opener on how difficult it can be to both meet healthy standards and be appealing to our target group, teens.

What are some ways to promote healthy diets to that target group?

When encouraging my students to have healthier diets, I promote choosing a variety of foods, deeply colored fruits and vegetables, whole grains over more processed foods and all things in moderation. The winning recipes from Peterson really fit this recommendation. 

What are some of the nutritional benefits of your team's winning dish versus its traditional counterpart?

They created a beef rib salad which uses spinach, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, carrots and it has a beef rib vinaigrette dressing. The colors of this salad really pop! The salad is served with Moroccan rice which uses brown rice, sweet potatoes, raisins, onion, spinach, low fat yogurt, and spices. We were not able to keep the chicken base in the original recipe due to the high salt content, but you really don’t miss it due to the sweet and spicy mix of ingredients.

To complement these dishes, they added sweet potato to a cornbread muffin. We were very surprised when the original nutritional analysis for our recipes showed that they were too low in calories.  To make up for this difference and yet not add fat, they drizzled syrup on the muffin.  The aroma alone is a very big draw to these recipes.  

Chef Schmidt said that her team's meal offers the total package: “The dishes visually look appealing, taste great, smell great, and of course they provide a well-rounded meal for the consumer. We can’t wait to get more feedback from students when the meal is offered in cafeterias.”

She also discussed the wonderful environment Jacksonville provides for growing fruits and vegetables. “The farmer’s markets are popular and I encourage students to visit a market and buy what is fresh and local,” she said. “There is always a lesson in every food you pick up.” 

Congrats Ms. Schmidt and culinary arts students Denver, Alexus, and Leoniqua!

Plus: Go Behind the Scenes of Cooking up Change 2011 here.

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