Cooking up Change in Winston-Salem

by Brittany Mollis

Most people would say that a dollar can’t get you too far these days. A dollar can only buy one-third of a gallon of gas. A dollar would barely put a dent in airfare or luggage fees. Most people would say that a dollar simply isn’t enough to make a difference. The Culinary Arts and Hospitality students at the Forsyth County Schools Career Center may beg to differ. For these young people, one dollar could take them on an all-expense paid trip to the U.S. Department of Education in Washington D.C.

Of course, it won’t be the dollar that gets them there. It will be these students’ culinary skills.

“Cooking Up Change” is a national healthy cooking competition started by the Healthy Schools Campaign. It is a program that began in 2007 in an effort to get high school students involved in what is being served in their cafeterias. The competition, supervised by chef instructors Darlene Owens and Sherry

Billings, started with twenty competing teams. It has been narrowed down to six teams, and on March 26, the final culinary teams from the Career Center will compete against one another for the chance to bring their dishes to Washington D.C. on June 9. The winning team from Winston-Salem will have to face the winning teams from Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Jacksonville, Little Rock, Memphis, Orange County, Orlando and Wichita.

Katie Willard is the Marketing and Merchandising Manager of Chartwells, the food service provider for Winston- Salem/Forsyth County schools. Chartwells is based out of Charlotte, and their mission is to provide schools with innovative, healthy options. Chartwells knows the importance of serving students healthy meals, and they will be funding the District competition as well as the trip to Washington D.C.

“We are always challenged with high school students when it comes to offerings that are healthy and appealing,

“Willard says, “This competition has been a great way for us to interact with a group of high school students that are interested in food service and can get involved in K-12 menu planning.”

The purpose of this competition is to not only give future culinary hopefuls a chance at making a difference, but it also gives them an education on real-life culinary expectations.

Expectation #1: Healthy food only.

Every restaurant offers specific cuisine, and this cuisine must be nutritious.

According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity in America has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. The students at the Career Center recognize the problem, and they are excited to do their part to combat the epidemic.

Caitlyn Harrison, finalist in this year’s competition, offers an explanation.

“I wouldn’t say that obesity is necessarily the problem,” Harrison says, “I think it’s more about just being healthy.”

Healthy eating leads to healthy living. The students are required to offer three dishes at the competition: A main dish with any kind of meat and grain, a side dish with one cup of vegetable and a side dish with one cup of fruit. The entire meal must be under 850 calories, less than 10 percent fat, and less than 1420 mg of sodium.

Once the requirements were given, it was up to the students’ creativity to make their own, unique dishes.

The finalists’ main dishes range from tofu burgers to chicken flatbreads, with a lot of variety in between.

Tameka Banner and her teammate Ty’Easha Quaye are making chicken stirfry. Banner understands that nutrition is important, but it also has to be tasty.

“I was interested in making a meal that was good for you, but also a meal that kids would want to eat,” Banner says.

Expectation #2: Budget wisely. Each meal in this contest, from main dish to dessert side, must be made with

CHANGE: ‘Most people would say that a dollar can’t get you too far these days.’

the one-dollar budget kept in mind. This means that every complete meal cost roughly one dollar to make. The competitors at the Career Center are learning exactly how difficult it is to stay under a dollar.

“It has been a challenge,” says finalist Oscar Jaramillo.

Katie Willard explains that the students are encouraged to stay within one dollar, but there is a little “wiggle room” offered.

“Obviously prices of food in Los Angeles are different than prices of food here or somewhere else, so they take that into consideration.”

Expectation #3: Time management. High school is a busy time when schedules are filled with extracurricular activities and social engagements. Like their life outside of school, the classroom activities rarely take a break. “Cooking Up Change” is not the only project that these students are working on. Aside from taking the culinary class and being graded on their work, they also do catering for meetings at the school, and they are preparing for their end of year project.

“Family and friends come at the end of the year, and the students serve them,”

Willard says, “They are also trained in table etiquette and service.”

Expectation #4: Quality Presentation To a chef, a good-looking meal is almost as important as a good-tasting meal. The finalists will face off on March 26 against one another, and local restaurant owners will be on the judging panel.

“Presentation definitely counts,” Willard says.

Some of the finalists are interested in pursuing careers in culinary arts as either chefs or restaurant owners, while others are still undecided about their futures. Whatever their eventual goals might be, their short-term goals are pretty similar. They would all like to bring their healthy meal before the Department of Education in June.

Most people might think that a dollar won’t get someone far these days, but the Culinary Arts and Services students at Forsyth County Schools Career Center might disagree.

These students created a nutritional meal with one dollar, and this meal could be served in cafeterias all over the country one day. Because of one dollar, students everywhere will have a healthy lunch. One dollar does make a difference.

Finalists: Tyler Dees, Reagan High School; Samantha Brown, Reagan High School; Dianne Garcia-Mata, Mt. Tabor High School; Kayla Buchanan, Glenn High School; Lashaun Chisholm, Glenn High School; Trovin Venable, Walkertown High School; Maria Hernandez, Glenn High School; Caitlyn Harrison, Reagan High School; Anna Simeonides, Reagan High School; Oscar Jaramillo, West Forsyth High School; Angelica Razo, RJ Reynolds High School; Mario Castillo, RJ Reynolds High School; Misty Lineberry, North Forsyth High School; Ty’Easha Quaye, North Forsyth High School; Tameka Banner, North Forsyth High School. !