Students at West Adams Prep Win L.A.’s First Cooking up Change Competition

February 07, 2013

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Winning students celebrate their victory in Cooking up Change LA!

On Thursday, guests at Los Angeles Trade Technical College were treated to quite a meal, as students from six L.A. public high schools sliced, diced their way through the city’s first Cooking up Change competition. José Landaverde, Maribel Sandoval and Esther Zegura, three culinary students from West Adams Preparatory High School (home of the mighty Panthers), won the inaugural L.A. competition with a delicious menu of Tex-Mex Corn Bread, Black Bean & Cucumber Mountain Salad and a Warm Pear and Raisin Delight.

“I wanted to be a part of the team and I wanted to be involved in the school,” Esther Zegura says. “I also wanted to change the way I look at food and change how I eat and how my family eats.”

José Landaverde agreed, adding that he was excited to have the opportunity to make an impact. “I wanted to be a part of the competition to be part of a change, not just in California, but all over the country,” he says.

But before they got to the main event, Zegura says, they had to compete with their peers and come up with a menu. She said one of the biggest challenges was creating a balanced menu from only 10 ingredients. Maribel Sandoval said their menu was voted on by their peers before being chosen to represent the school and was selected for its originality.

“We are students, so we wanted to make something we would want to eat and our friends would want to eat,” Sandoval said. “We thought if we made something out of the ordinary, other students would be curious about it and want to try it.”

Student chefs from five other high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District contributed delicious dishes to the city’s Cooking up Change competition. Meals were:

  • Justine Ambriz, Priscilla Diaz and Bryan Orozco (Banning High School): Fajita Chicken Wrap, Southwestern Black Bean Salad and Mandarin Orange, Pineapple & Banana Parfait
  • Brandon Catbagan, Brandi Pollard and Victor Sierra (Doyle Career & Transition Center): Bar-B-Que Chicken Pizza, Vegetable Medley on Citrus & Honey Wilted Spinach and Lightly-Spiced Crunchy Fruit Salad
  • Kenya Rodriguez and Jazmin Sandoval (Francis Polytechnic High School): Kenya Jazzy Wrap, Side of Broccoli and Vanilla Yogurt & Peach Parfait
  • Andrew Diaz, Lucila Flores and Jorge Perez (Marshall High School): Asian Chicken Salad Wrap, Broccoli Salad and Pear & Yogurt Parfait
  • Rafael Alvride and Guadalupe Francisco (Santee Educational Complex): Viva Tamale, Fiesta Salad & Graham Cracker Crumble With Warm Fruit

The team from West Adams will join winning teams from Chicago, St. Louis, Santa Ana, Denver, Jacksonville, Winston-Salem, Memphis and Washington D.C. in the national Cooking Up Change competition at the U.S. Department of Education on June 10th. In addition to the trip to D.C., students win cookware, knife sets and culinary scholarships.

The students were so excited to talk about their day and the experiences that it was hard for them to pin down one favorite moment. Maribel Sandoval said she most enjoyed meeting the judges. “Working with my team was the best,” Esther Zegura said. “It was all so exciting. I was speechless.”

José Landaverde says he really enjoyed working with his supportive teammates. “They kept on pushing me and telling me not to give up, and it paid off,” he says.

Their entire school community is thrilled, too. Returning to school after a long day at the  competition, the winning students pushed open their school’s doors and were greeted by shouts of, “We won!” followed by a shower of cheers and applause.

Congratulations, Panthers! Can’t wait to see you again in D.C.