Future Chefs Challenge 2014

chef contest

The food services department posed an exciting challenge to all of our fourth-graders this spring: develop and submit a healthy sandwich recipe to food services Director Meg Kingston for a chance to be in the district's Future Chefs Competition!

A panel of judges selected Ava Evangeliste, a Seth G. Haley Elementary School student, as the winner of the district’s first Future Chefs contest, with her “Turkey and Cheese Crunch Wrap” earning rave reviews. The event was held at West Haven High School and sponsored by Sodexo, the company that began managing West Haven Public Schools’ food services program last summer. (View the photo gallery here.)

Ava, who enjoys cooking at home with her mom, said she came up with the recipe with help from her grandmother and included some of her favorite foods in the list of ingredients. It’s even become part of her family’s recipe rotation at home.

“I feel great. I was surprised,” Ava said of winning the contest and receiving an apron, iPod Nano and gift bag as prizes.

The recipe will now be put on May menus in West Haven school cafeterias. Locals can try it, too. John Theodoridis, a judge in the competition, agreed to highlight the sandwich on the menu at his restaurant, the Elm Diner.

Ava and the other five finalists in the competition donned chef hats and received assistance from West Haven High School culinary students Monday, while Sodexo provided ingredients and equipment, such as a panini grill. The youngsters had been chosen by Food Services Director Meg Kingston after fourth-graders from across the district’s six elementary schools were invited to submit healthy sandwich recipes.

Kingston said she was impressed with the youngsters’ creativity and their confidence in the kitchen setting.

“I think we definitely have some students here who will hopefully go on to West Haven High School and shine in the culinary program. They showed great enthusiasm and possibly even inspired some of the adults here today who might not always be comfortable with cooking different kinds of meals,” Kingston said. “I also want to thank all of the other students who submitted recipes and everyone who came here today to support our finalists.”

The five other fourth-grade students who participated Monday were Layla Soberany, of Savin Rock Community School; Jonathan Cervantes, of Washington Elementary School; Immanuel Belcher, of Seth G. Haley Elementary School; Adriana Beams, of Edith E. Mackrille Elementary School; and Kellyan Ruiz, of Washington Elementary School. They were assisted by WHHS culinary students Rashawn Golding, Carlos Lopez, Mike Cretella, Jordany Louis, Kourtney Caple and Grace Medrano. Kingston complimented their patience with the younger students and willingness to volunteer their time after school for the event.

Each of the six fourth-grade finalists, with help from their WHHS mentors, prepared the sandwich submissions and offered samples to the judges panel—composed of Superintendent of Schools Neil C. Cavallaro, Mayor Edward M. O’Brien, WHHS senior Catherine DePino and Theodoridis—and audience members. Judges deemed Ava’s wrap as their favorite culinary creation, saying it was healthy and original.

According to Kingston, the Future Chefs competition may become an annual event in West Haven and could expand to other grades.

future chefs flyer