Meet Houston’s Winning Student Chefs!

May 23, 2014

A chicken chili sub takes first place

Cooking up Change competitions are happening all across the country this spring, with winners heading to Washington, D.C. for the national finals in June! HSC’s Cooking up Change contest challenges high school culinary students to create a healthful 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. Here’s a profile of one winning team.

For Houston’s first-place Cooking up Change team, the win feels as big as Texas. Said team member Barrosha B.: “It’s a huge achievement not only for our school but for our state.”

Texas provided inspiration for their dish, in fact. It’s a chicken chili sub, honey and vanilla fruit parfait; and honey- and orange-glazed grilled vegetables. Team member Andrew W. said, “We all grew up in Texas and wanted something Texas was known for, which was chili.”

The meal’s grilled vegetables were another touch of Texas because barbecued foods are so popular. The veggies really caught on for team member Santiago C., who eats them with the team’s signature glaze even at home. “ I used to eat a lot of fast foods.” he said.

Barrosha, Andrew and Santiago are all part of a magnet program in the Houston Independent School District, where they study food science and culinary techniques every day. Even with their in-depth training, the competition wasn’t easy.

Barrosha said: “It was a tough, tough competition. We didn’t know what to expect. We had faith in our dish, but the teams that we competed against were very talented. It was just a ‘hoping’ situation.”

Despite the nerves, she was excited to meet some of the judges . She said: “Christine Ha was on MasterChef, so I immediately recognized her, and our superintendent was there. It was cool to see the people in charge of our education and people that we aspire to be on TV, tasting our dish.”

Andrew said, “When I was going up to hand them the silverware, I remember my hand shaking. I was out of it. And it was amazing.”

The team gave big kudos to their adult mentors and instructors, including Jasmine Anderson, Reginald Martin and Chelsea Gumm. “This competition would not be what it is without them,” Barrosha said. She also noted that they feel differently now about food service staff. She said: “It’s a lot that goes into producing a simple lunch for the entire school. We have a new appreciation for them and what they actually go through every day.”

Next year the meal will be served to more than 49,000 students across the district.

And even though the meal’s heart is in Texas, Andrew can already see the ripples spreading far and wide. He said: “If kids grow up in an environment where they eat healthy food, they’ll spread that on to their children and their children’s children.”

Andrew, we couldn’t agree more.

Congratulations to Andrew, Barrosha and Santiago! We look forward to seeing you all in D.C. Read about all winning teams here.

Special thanks to Houston’s local hosts HISD Food Services and Aramark!