Cooking up Change
Cooking up Change Chicago is a dynamic competition that challenges Chicago Public Schools culinary students to create healthy school meals that taste great and appeal to their peers.
Elevating Student Voices
Cooking up Change is about the electricity of competition and tasting the next generation of school lunches. It’s about celebrating the promise of healthy schools. It’s also about creating a conversation.
Cooking up Change Chicago puts student voices front and center in our city’s conversation about school food, challenging them to create healthy school lunches that their peers will enjoy while adhering to strict nutrition guidelines, ingredient lists and budget constraints. These student chefs show us that within the constraints that schools face every day, it is possible to create meals with plentiful fruits, vegetables and whole grains that not only meet high nutrition standards but also appeal to students.
Cooking up Change Chicago culminates in a one-of-a-kind celebration at the Bridgeport Art Center where winning teams are announced and Chicago’s communities—culinary stars, business leaders, educators, advocates and many others—come together to support and learn about HSC’s efforts to ensure that all children have access to healthy schools where they can learn and thrive. Check out photos from Cooking up Change Chicago 2015 on HSC’s Facebook page!
The impact of Cooking up Change extends far beyond the contest and one exciting evening. Students develop skills that last a lifetime while making a real impact on school food in Chicago and across the nation. Read more about the impact of Cooking up Change Chicago and about one student chef who returned this year as a judge.
Launching the National Competition
The Cooking up Change Chicago contest launches the 2015-2016 Cooking up Change National Healthy Cooking Contest, with local contests to follow throughout the school year in cities across the country. The winning team from each city will travel to Washington, D.C., in the spring to compete in the Cooking up Change National Finals and to present their meals to Congress.
Limited Ingredients, Tight Budgets and Real-Life Constraints
Cooking up Change challenges students to create a great-tasting lunch that meets the district’s high nutrition standards on a tight budget, using only ingredients commonly available for school food service. Students must create recipes that include no more than six steps so they can be replicated easily on a large scale in real school kitchens.
The student chefs who take part in Cooking up Change Chicago are enrolled in the Chicago Public Schools Career and Technical Education Culinary program. Through this program, students learn how to plan a menu; plan and prepare meals; meet sanitation standards; and manage the dining environment.
Student teams use the knowledge they’ve gained through their culinary arts studies to develop menus and recipes and refine them based on peer taste tests and professional nutrition analysis. Mentors and instructors offer guidance and support; students create the recipes based on their tastes and feedback from their peers.
On the day of the competition, students present their meals to a panel of judges—food service professionals, professional chefs, education leaders and local officials, among others—who rate each meal according to its originality, taste, appearance and the quality of the team’s presentation.
Champions + Participating Teams
2015 Chicago Champions
Washington High School
Cajun Chicken Lettuce Wrap / Roasted Corn Relish / Peach and Yogurt Pizza
Read the spotlight on Washington!
Marshall Metropolitan High School
Bombay Chicken Burrito / Curry Cucumber Salad / Indian Apple Crunch
Dunbar Vocational Career Academy
Chicken Shawarma / Sweet Potato Hash / Autumn Crumb Parfait
Congratulations to all the impressive culinary teams who competed in Cooking up Change Chicago 2015:
- Chicago Vocational Career Academy (First Place 2007, 2011 and 2013)
- Clemente Community Academy (Second Place 2010 and 2011, Audience Choice 2012)
- Corliss High School (Best Presentation 2015, Fan Favorite 2015)
- Dunbar Career Academy (Audience Choice 2011, Second Place 2012, Third Place 2015)
- Juarez Community Academy
- Manley Community Academy
- Marshall Metro High School (First Place 2014, Second Place 2015)
- North-Grand High School
- Prosser Career Academy (Second Place 2013, Third Place 2014)
- Richards Career Academy (First Place 2008 and 2010, Second Place 2011)
- Roosevelt High School (Third Place 2013)
- Simeon Career Academy (Audience Choice 2010, Best Presentation 2013)
- Southside Occupational Academy
- Tilden Career Community Academy (First Place 2009, Third Place 2012)
- Vaughn Occupational High School
- Washington High School (First Place 2012 and 2015, Second Place 2014, Audience Choice 2014)
Members of the Cooking up Change judging panel—including food service professionals, professional chefs, education leaders and local officials, among others—take on the challenge of selecting winners among the many excellent student creations. 2015 judges included:
Chef and Director of Operations, Pork & Mindy’s
Regional Administrator, USDA Food and Nutrition Service
Regional Vice President, Aramark
Check out our spotlight on Trevor Ferguson on HSC’s blog!
Director, Office of Nutrition Support Services, Chicago Public Schools
Check out our spotlight on Leslie Fowler on HSC’s blog!
Manager, Community Affairs and Grassroots, Southwest
CEO and Executive Chef, Shamrock Event Services, Inc.
Nyah participated as a student competitor in Cooking up Change nearly a decade ago. Check out our spotlight on Nyah Griffin on HSC’s blog!
Division Administrator, Nutrition and Wellness Programs, Illinois State Board of Education
Farm to School Specialist, University of Wisconsin – Madison, Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems
Executive Chef and Managing Partner, Honey Butter Fried Chicken
Chef and Executive Director, Washburne Culinary Institute
Deputy Commissioner and Chief Program Officer, Chicago Department of Public Health
Ernest Watkins III
District Manager, Aramark
Judges taste and evaluate meals based on a set of criteria that is shared with the student teams at the beginning of the contest. This chart outlines the judging criteria and the value assigned to each aspect of the meal. Guests at Cooking up Change are invited to sample the student creations and consider their own favorites!
Rate the originality and creativity of the school meal.
Are the items seasoned correctly? Is there a balance between the main dish and the two side dishes? Is there a variety of textures? Does it taste good? Would you order it?
Does it look appetizing? Is there a variety of natural colors? Is the tray neatly plated?
Did the team give an articulate, well-planned presentation?
The winning team from Cooking up Change Chicago will travel to Washington, D.C. to compete in the Cooking up Change national finals and present their lunch to Congress! Read more about the Cooking up Change National Finals.
By the Numbers
Cooking up Change began as a small program in several schools. Today, its impact reaches across our city and beyond. A quick glance at the program in Chicago spotlights:
- 21 schools
- 750+ student chefs
- 3,600,000+ winning meals served in Chicago Public Schools
Plus: See our Cooking up Change National section for a peek at what these numbers look like nationwide.
Serving the Winning Meal to Peers and Elected Leaders
Each year in Chicago, the winning Cooking up Change meal is served in schools across CPS to more than 400,000 students, as well as to local and state policymakers. On the day their meal is first served in schools city-wide, students celebrate at a special event at their school where parents and community leaders gather to enjoy the meal.
Student then travel to present their meal to leaders across the city and state. For example, students have presented winning meals to:
- Mayor Rahm Emanuel, at a special event
- Chicago Board of Education, at their board meeting
- Illinois State Board of Education in Springfield, Ill., at their board meeting
- To members of Congress, at a briefing on Capitol Hill and at a special tasting event for the Senate
Transforming the Chicago Public Schools Menu
Winning Cooking up Change meals have proven hugely popular among students and are now regularly featured on the Chicago Public Schools lunch menu. The fact that these meals are part of the regular menu is a testament to the students’ skill in creating recipes under real-life constraints, and their ability to design healthy lunches that are popular with their peers.
Developing Career Skills Beyond the Classroom
Cooking up Change helps students build their professional skills and networks, challenges them to think creatively and to work together under pressure, and helps them develop leadership skills and experience that translates to success beyond the classroom and outside the kitchen.
In Students’ Words
“This competition gives us a voice. I want to keep promoting healthy lunches at school.”
—Menajah, student chef
“Because of Cooking up Change, you get to learn new skills that you may not learn anywhere else.”
—Cashay, student chef
“I never knew how much fun cooking could be. Everyone was working hard and working together to make it here.”
—Marshawn, student chef, 2015 Chicago winning team from Washington High School
“From Cooking up Change, I learned that I love working in teams and I want to go into culinary arts.”
—Lakeisha, student chef
“Cooking up Change isn’t all about winning. It’s a lifestyle that we’re working on—it’s about being healthier all around.”
—Carmel, student chef
“I wasn’t really sure if people would like the food that we made. It turns out people really liked it.”
—Zykeria, student chef, 2014 Chicago winning team from Marshall Metropolitan High School
Elevating Student Voices in the Media
The excitement of the Cooking up Change contest has attracted media attention that shares students’ voices and perspectives with a wide audience.
Recent highlights include:
November 3, 2015 | FOX TV
Chicago high school students face off in Cooking Up Change competition
October 30, 2015 | Chicago Sun Times
Cajun dish helps Washington HS wrap up cooking contest
October 24, 2015 | ABC 7 Chicago
CPS Students to Participate in Cooking up Change Competition
Culinary Scholarship Sponsor
Washburne Culinary Institute
Clune Construction Company
Cristina Foods, Inc.
Goose Island Beer Co.
Turner Construction Company
Advocate Children’s Hospital
American Hospital Association
BMO Harris Bank
The University of Chicago Medicine
Scott and Megan Wick
Alper Services LLC
Illinois Association of School Nurses
Officer Mullen’s Chicago’s Finest Applesauce
Jessica and Dean Gerdes
Mike and Melissa Ginter
Rick and Donna Yule
Official Education Partner
Chicago Public Schools CTE Culinary Arts Program
National Honorary Chair
Marion Brooks, Reporter/Anchor, NBC5 News
Susan S. Aaron
Robin and Tony Armour
Lucy and Peter Ascoli
Bill and Karen Berenson
Martha Dewey Bergren
Bess and Candelario Celio
Lester and Beverly Davis
Rochelle Davis and Ken Rolling
Kelly and Brian Dettmann
Lisa Gershenson and John Chavez
Jill Houk and Scott Herrington
Cheryl Bondy Kaplan
Jack Kaplan and Marian Macsai
Rob and Susan Rogers
Triste and Ian Smith
Gwen G. Solberg
Jeff and Jasmine Whitehead
Kristi and Benjamin Cox
Claire Marcy and Andrew Micheli
William and Sara Porter
Susan Samek and Michael Ryan
Spotlight on Featured Changemakers
David Blackmon, Senior Program Coordinator, Culinary Arts and Career and Technical Education, Chicago Public Schools
Read our spotlight on David Blackmon on HSC’s blog.
Leslie Fowler, Director of Nutrition Support Services, Chicago Public Schools
Read our spotlight on Leslie Fowler on HSC’s blog.
Cooking up Change Chicago Recipes
Access related recipes below, or go to our main Resource Center to access recipes across all of our program and policy areas.