Team captain Olivia Jones samples the homemade salad dressing of young chef Benjamin Ceryes, left, as the team from Mare Island Health and Fitness Academy competes in Saturday’s 2015 Jr. Chef Challenge at the Norman C. King Community Center in Vallejo. MIKE JORY – VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD
Kids learn and compete in Vallejo healthy cooking competition
Learning to cook and eat healthy brought some 32 students to the Norman King Community Center in Vallejo to compete in the 2015 Jr. Chef Challenge. It was the third time the event’s been held in Vallejo, organizer Vicki Williams said.
Students of the Kids/Teens Cook with Heart program have been working toward Saturday’s event for weeks, organizers said.
Audience members and team members alike seemed to be excited about the challenge, which included participants age 10 to 18 10 competing in five rounds of meal preparation, said Williams, who is with the American Heart Association, which, along with Kaiser Permanente, sponsors the event.
“The first round is knife cuts — how to safely cut veggies and fruits,” Williams said. “The second round is appetizers, in this case salad with dressing. The third round is about etiquette, the fourth is culinary questions and answers and the fifth is an entre.”
Contestants were from Vallejo’s Loma Vista, Mare Island and Elsa Widenmann elementary schools, David A. Weir Elementary School and the Matt Garcia Learning Center in Fairfield.
The winner is selected by three judges, based on a combination of all parts of the competition. Loma Vista Elementary School went on to take the victory, and with it tickets to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. As the winning school, Loma Vista gets to keep the trophy for a year.
Williams said she founded the challenge in 2011 through the Napa/Solano area of Kaiser, as part of an effort to fight childhood obesity.
“It seems to be making a difference,” she said. “Based on a survey, more people seem to be eating more vegetables and drinking less sugary drinks, and being more conscious of what they’re putting in their bodies.”
The hope is to make eating healthy more easily accessible, she said.
“There’s a perception that to eat healthy is expensive,” Williams said.
Led by working chefs like San Francisco chef Robert Edward of Oakland, event participants learned about what ingredients can be used to make food tasty yet healthy — a message that seemed to be getting through on Saturday.
“I think it’s great,” said 11-year-old fifth-grader Marshalinn Louis, who said she was at Saturday’s event to cheer on her defending champion Widenmann classmates. “I want to do the cooking next time.”
The aunt of one of the contestants said what her niece has learned is helping the whole family, which is precisely the point.
“My niece has been working so hard, and to see her develop and blossom, it’s been so nice,” said Vallejo resident Hollie Harsh. “She’s learning how to cook, in healthy ways, and it’s real good.”
Call Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at 707-553-6824
By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen, Vallejo Times-Herald
Posted: 04/25/15, 7:11 PM PDT
Updated: on 04/25/2015