Meet Winston-Salem’s Winning Student Chefs!

May 14, 2014

The team’s sense of camaraderie made it all happen.

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.

On March 26, five teams from Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Career Center faced off against each other for another incredible Cooking up Change culinary competition.

The winning team’s meal — a chicken stir fry, veggie side dish and stewed apples — went through a few phases during its initial development. Team member Caitlyn H. said: “We actually tried a lot of different variations of the meal. We started with a tuna wrap, and then we went to Greek. Because of the limitations, we had to keep switching things around. We added the chicken to meet the protein requirement.”

But despite the many iterations of their menu, the dish stayed true to a simple idea: “We need more variety in our school lunches,” Oscar J. said.

The team’s sense of camaraderie made it all happen. Said Caitlyn: “We work really well together. We are able to sense each other’s needs and help each other out. We’re always there for each other. We’re even good at knowing who’s going to say what.”

Anna S. added that, in addition to their similarities in the kitchen, their mutual love of cooking is strong. “We’ve all just loved to cook since we were little,” she said. “My little brother has a lot of food allergies so I started cooking for him. Caitlyn has always loved to bake with her grandma.

Oscar is Hispanic so has always dabbled in Mexican cooking. We’ve all got it in our blood.”

Oscar added, “My uncle owns a restaurant in California, I’m hoping to be just like him one day.”

He said that the Cooking up Change competition wasn’t exactly a cakewalk: “It was nerve wracking,” he said. “[The judges] asked us questions, and we answered them — but the whole time I was just thinking, ‘Would they like it?’”

But now that their meal has been crowned the winner and they’re headed to D.C., the future looks brighter than ever for the team. Caitlyn said, “I think the opportunity is just really great for us. I’m sure we’re going to learn a lot. I hope that the competition can spread to other cities so that other kids can have the same opportunity.”

It’s not just an opportunity for themselves, though. It’s an opportunity to influence the health of the next generation. Anna said: “Fast food is very convenient, and life is very fast nowadays. A lot of students are getting fast food for meals. We think that if more fresh options were available to them, they would take them.” She connected health with performance in school, saying, “What you put into your body affects how you feel. We’re excited to give them options that taste good and are healthy as well.”

Congratulations to Caitlyn H., Oscar J., and Anna S.! We look forward to seeing you all in D.C. Read about all winning teams here. 

Special thanks to Winston-Salem’s local host Chartwells School Dining Services!