Meeting the Winning Student Chefs in Memphis!

June 06, 2014

A chicken wrap with just the right spices

Cooking up Change competitions are happening all across the country this spring, with winners heading to Washington, D.C. for the national finals on June 9! 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.

The Cooking up Change winning team from Memphis heads to national finals in D.C. next week, and they couldn’t be more proud of their top-notch meal.The main dish is an original take on a chicken wrap, with just the right balance of spices, garlic and lime. It’s accompanied by a baked potato with sauteed veggies and a spiced-pear side dish.

Their recipe is the product of research, trial, error and — most of all — teamwork. “We found three recipes,” team member Moriah said, “and then we added our own spice and our own flavor.”

Moriah and team member Cadarius are from Memphis Health Careers Academy, and this year marks the school’s first Cooking up Change victory.

Cadarius said that the whole process was a lesson in cooking for a crowd. He said, “I'm usually cooking at home for my mom and stuff like that… but this competition was making a healthy meal for the students. I was like, ‘What if they don't like what I cook?’”

For example, meeting the low-sodium requirement proved a challenge at first. But they relied on lessons from their culinary studies to overcome this obstacle. Moriah said: “We created the taste of salt but from different spices and herbs.”

To further ensure a peer-pleasing recipe, the students taste-tested their meal several times, making adjustments along the way. Moriah definitely welcomed the broader audience for their food. “I come from a family full of cookers — not chefs, but homestyle cooks,” she said. “I like homestyle food but I wanted to expand that knowledge to different culinary cuisines.”

Still, for the sauteed vegetables, she drew on some familiar inspiration. She said: “My parents and grandmother sauté squash and zucchini in a pan with onions and different spices and then put it in the oven. I used the oven aspects of my family recipe but put my own special twist on it.”

And although they’re ready to share their meal in the nation’s capital, it’s also about sharing their voices and opinions. Cadarius said: “I really do love the Cooking up Change competition. Nobody knows what we like more than we do. For us to be able to pick the food that we eat for lunch? That’s really amazing to me.”

Their meal won’t just be served to lawmakers in D.C., it’s also reaching another crucial audience: their peers. Their meal will be served to students across the district next year, and food service director Tony Geraci has set the goal of offering a 100-percent student-designed lunch menu in two years.

Read about all winning teams here.