Personal Inspiration Sparks Winning Idea at Cooking up Change Orange County

May 30, 2017

Cooking up Change competitions are happening all across the country, with winners heading to Washington, D.C., for the national finals on June 12. HSC’s Cooking up Change contest challenges high school culinary students to create healthy, great-tasting meals that meet the real-life requirements of the national school meal program. Cooking up Change serves up life-changing opportunities, helps students realize their own potential and puts student voices front and center in the national dialogue about school food.

Common advice given to writers is to write what you know. The winning team from Cooking up Change Orange County decided that advice works for cooking, too!

Yasmin, Carlos and Isabella from La Habra High School used their own backgrounds—Mexican and Indian—as the inspiration for their winning menu of Chicken Kashmir, Pepino Curry and Tropical Kheer.

Curry can be a finicky spice, Isabella says, and not everyone likes it, but taste tests the students did with fellow students and teachers demonstrated that with a little encouragement, people will try—and even enjoy—unfamiliar flavors. In fact, teammate Carlos had never tried curry before the team made this dish, but he figured out he really enjoys the complex flavor.

While Yasmin and Carlos both started cooking from a young age with their families, Isabella jokes that she was “only able to burn water” when she started in the culinary program her senior year. Her interest and talent has developed from there.

Now, these teammates also understand the importance of healthy school food and why spending the time to create meals that are nutritious and delicious is so essential for schools. “Food contributes a lot to how your brain works,” Isabelle says. “If you don’t have breakfast, you’re at 50 percent. Healthy food with a creative idea, good flavor and that’s cost effective can all be accomplished as long as we put the effort in.”

Yasmin agrees. “Even though sometimes it costs a bit more to provide healthy food, it’s worth the cost because it benefits the health of students,” she says. “It’s going to be worth it in the long run.”

Carlos, Isabella and Yasmin will head to Washington, D.C., in June to compete against the winning teams from cities across the country. They’ll also be able to share their newfound appreciation for healthy school food with their elected officials.

Congratulations to the winning Orange County team—and all the Orange County student chefs—for proving that school meals can be healthy and delicious!

The Orange County contest took place on April 20 and was hosted by Kid Healthy with support from partner sponsor Northgate González Markets. This was Orange County’s sixth time participating. Here are all of the teams that competed:

Buena Park High School
Student Chefs: Enrique and Takami
Menu: Salsa De Mani w/ Brown Rice, Gazpacho and Spiced Cran-Apple Compote

California High School
Student Chefs: Karsen, Jayla and Kenneth
Menu: California Tuna Melt Torta, Santa Barbara Ranch Style Salad and California is the Peach and Granola State

Fullerton Union High School
Student Chefs: Michelle, Jaimee and Jennifer
Menu: Thai-rrific Taco, Thai Roll-Ups and Spiced Oranges

Garden Grove High School
Student Chefs: Tiffany, Andrea and Alexis
Menu: Buffalo Chicken Cupcakes, Crown Cut Tomato, and Peanut Butter and Banana Crisps

Katella High School
Student Chefs: Noreen, Evelyn and Josue
Menu: New Orleans (Nah-Lins) Nuggets over Dirty Rice, Mardi Gras Slaw and Bourbon Street Banana Bread Pudding

La Habra High School
Student Chefs: Carlos, Yasmin and Isabella
Menu: Chicken Kashmir, Pepino Curry and Tropical Kheer

Los Amigos High School
Student Chefs: Juan, Michael and Christopher
Menu: Not-cho Average Nachos, Holy Curtido! and Sol de la Pina

Sonora High School
Student Chefs: Elijah, YeRin and Johnathan
Menu: Dos Amigos, Comrade Slaw and Twisted Pineapple Agua Fresca

Valley High School
Student Chefs: Beatriz, Daisy and Maricarmen
Menu: Caribbean Chicken over a Cucayo & Bakoba Toston, Roasted Jamaican Spiced veggies and Tropical Heat