After a heated culinary battle on Monday in Dallas, Texas, the team from Intermediate District 287, South Education Center Alternative (SECA), of Richfield, Minn, was named the grand champions in First lady Michelle Obama's Recipes For Healthy Kids Challenge, a nationwide competition launched last September as part of the Let's Move! campaign. SECA competed during an Iron Chef-style battle at the American Culinary Federation National Convention, and their Porcupine Sliders--healthy mini turkey burgers served on multi-grain buns--were dubbed best in show by a judging team that included White House Senior Policy Advisor for healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass (above) and USDA's Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Audrey Rowe.
Kass served as Master of Ceremonies for the cookoff, treating audience members to a chop-by-chop account of the cooking action, as SECA and two other teams competed for the Grand Prize: $3,000.00 and a trip to the White House.
"This is exactly what the First Lady was hoping for, to create healthy dishes the kids are going to like," Kass said. "And these dishes were great. I would eat all of them any day."
Kass said changing childrens' eating habits will take time but the Challenge is great for raising awareness about childhood obesity, and a sign that Mrs. Obama's campaign is working, though more work needs to be done.
"The First Lady knows we're on the right path to solving this problem," Kass said. "It took decades to get here; it'll take decades to get out."“All of the schools that participated in the competition have demonstrated once again that school meals can be healthy – and taste great too,” said Rowe. “This is an outstanding achievement for our kids and for our efforts to bring healthier meals and healthier lifestyles to schools across the nation.”
Awards were presented Monday evening at a special ceremony. The eight-member SECA team includes Theresa Guthrie, a teacher at the school; Wanda Nickola, the district's food service manager; chef Todd Bolton of Parasole restaurant in Edina, Minn.; Mary Lair, the school nurse; and students identified as Adilene D., Chris D., Dominic L., and Dolores P. The recipe is packed with nutritious elements: The turkey patties are made with spinach, dried cranberries and brown rice, and served on toasted multigrain rolls with lettuce and tomato. The recipe was dubbed the national finalist in the whole grains category of the competition. Chef Bolton has a son who attends the school. (Above: The Porcupine Sliders)
The team had one hour and 45 minutes to prepare their recipe during the competition, and won over the two other national finalist teams: Ira B. Jones Elementary School, from Asheville, N.C., which competed with Tuscan Smoked Turkey & Bean Soup; and Joshua Cowell School in Manteca, CA, competing with Central Valley Harvest Bake, a sweet and spicy dish made with Butternut squash and jalapeno peppers. Each team had to win a semi-final round to get to the Dallas cookoff.
USDA received more than 300 recipes entries for the Challenge, and the school-based teams of students and adults had to use USDA's new nutrition guidelines for the National School Lunch Program when creating their dishes; recipes had to be able to be easily incorporated into school lunch menus across the US.
The three teams' recipes, as well as as the top ten recipes in the Challenge, will have their entries published in the forthcoming Recipes for Healthy Kids Cookbook. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the finalists in June.
*Photo by Eddie Eehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama