Who Picks the Winning Meal at Cooking up Change? Expert Judges, of Course!

November 08, 2012

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Judges listen to a student presentation at Cooking up Change

The Cooking up Change healthy cooking contest is, at its heart, all about inspiring students to create the healthy school meals they want to eat. Students design menus and create recipes, working side-by-side with professional chefs. They develop skills and learn lessons — from teamwork to healthy cooking — that can last a lifetime. It’s the process that counts, win or lose.

Well — the competition is a big part of it, too! The heated competition gets everyone, from the students to the guests who taste their creations, pumped up, year after year. And that couldn’t happen without our incredible panel of expert judges. We are so fortunate to work with some of Chicago’s finest culinary and civic leaders, who will tackle the challenge of choosing the winning meal.

It won’t be easy — it never is. Students spend weeks refining their meals. But judges must rate them on a few key criteria: originality, taste, appearance and presentation. And of course, meals must meet USDA standards for nutrition as well as limitations on cost and ingredients.

So, with special thanks for their time, energy and taste buds, we salute the members of our incredible judging panel, who will soon face a mighty delicious challenge:

  • John Chiakulas, Partner and Corporate Executive Chef, Lettuce Entertain You
  • George Chivari, Chief Executive Officer, Preferred Meal Systems, Inc.
  • Leslie Fowler, Director, Office of Nutrition Support Services, Chicago Public Schools
  • Susan Goss, Chef/Owner, West Town Tavern
  • Vinni Hall, Secretary, Illinois State Board of Education
  • Alia Laniani, Student, Kenwood Academy High School
  • Corey McPherrin, Anchor, Good Day Chicago
  • Frances Moore, Food Service Manager, New Millenium Health High School
  • Kristopher Murray, Executive Director, Washburne Culinary Institute
  • Kymm Mutch, Regional Learning Lab Project Director, School Food FOCUS Upper Midwest Regional Learning Lab
  • Carrie Nahabedian, Executive Chef, NAHA
  • Brenda Nichols, Lunch Room Assistant, Marshall Metro High School
  • Ina Pinkney, Chef/Owner, Ina’s
  • Tony Priolo, Executive Chef/Owner, Piccolo Sogno
  • Jesse Ruiz, Vice President, Chicago Board of Education
  • Julie Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the Governor
  • Beth Swanson, Deputy Chief of Staff for Education, Office of the Mayor
  • Stephanie A. Whyte, Chief Health Officer, Office of Student Health and Wellness, Chicago Public Schools
  • Dequandre Williams, Student, Harlan Community Academy High School
  • Erick Williams, Executive Chef, MK Restaurant
  • Travis Young, Regional Vice President, Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality

Thanks, judges! We’ll see you at the judging table in just a few days!