Winning Cooking up Change with a Cajun Po’Boy

November 20, 2018 | Written By:

When Vaughn Occupational High School culinary instructor Melinda Calderon saw how nervous her student chefs were at the beginning of the Cooking up Change competition last Wednesday, she wrote an inspirational message on the back of the team’s chalkboard sign: “Squad: You got this! Take your time! Breathe! You’re a rock star!”

By the end of the night, Vaughn was celebrating its first Cooking up Change win with its menu of Cajun Po’ Boy, Elotes Salad and Apple Dippers. “We couldn’t believe it,” says student chef Adrianna. “This year, we won!”

Student chefs Adrianna, Ezequiel, Hector, Justin, Litzy and Manny took their inspiration for the sandwich from a sandwich one of the student chefs tried at a restaurant. They all enjoyed the spicy flavor.

Andrea, Cesar, Dafne, Eduardo, Julissa and Lisbeth from Juarez Community Academy took second place with their menu of Spicy Fried Chicken and French Toast, Sweet and Sour Salad and Cinnamon Apple Parfait. “It was really rewarding to taste it all together with the different flavors,” says Juarez student chef Julissa. Prosser student chefs Cindy, Diamond, Emily, Luis, Shannon and William took third place with their menu of Thai Spicy Chicken Stir-Fry, Vietnamese Veggie Coleslaw and Chinese Spiced Pear Tart.

For the first time ever, Cooking up Change guests were able to try and vote on breakfast dishes created by student chefs. Breakfast is an essential component of the school meal program, and the teams took on the challenge of creating an easy-to-eat, delicious school breakfast. Prosser Career Academy took first place in the breakfast category with their Spicy Egg Burrito & Fresh Banana. “Healthy food doesn’t have to just be healthy; it can be delicious,” says Prosser student chef Alhaji.

Students from winning teams receive a $1,000 scholarship to Washburne Culinary and Hospitality Institute and autographed cookbooks from John Colletta, a Cooking up Change judge. But perhaps the most exciting part of winning—in both the lunch and breakfast category—is that student chefs will see their menus served at CPS schools across the district.

We’d like to thank all our supporters, including Chicago Presenting Sponsor, Aramark; Champions EnvirOx and School Health Corporation; Official Beverage Partner, Goose Island; Culinary Scholarship Sponsor, Washburne Culinary Institute; Official Education Partner, Chicago Public Schools CTE Culinary Arts Program; Leaders Clune Construction Company and Lettuce Entertain You; Partners, Cristina Foods, FIG Catering & Drinks, Kellogg’s Specialty Channels and Perkins + Will; and Advocates, Alper Services, Heartfelt Catering, Hilda’s Kitchen, Illinois Association of School Nurses and Shamrok Event Services. We’d also like to thank our National Sponsors: Official Travel Partner, Southwest; and Official Culinary Partner, James Beard Foundation.

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