Steak and cheese
sandwiches, avocado and hummus on multi-grain toast, ambrosia,
watermelon cake—West Haven Public School fourth-graders served up all
these dishes along with a healthy dose of competition during April's
third annual Future Chefs Challenge.
But Forest Elementary School student Jordan Verbanic’s
watermelon cake with fresh berries received the highest ratings from
judges, earning him a first-place prize of a new bicycle.
The April 27 contest was again sponsored by Sodexo, the school
district’s food services management company. Fourth-graders were asked
this spring to submit ideas for snacks, and one finalist from each
elementary school competed in the event at West Haven High School, with
help from some food services staff members.
Superintendent Neil Cavallaro, Executive Assistant John Lewis
from Mayor O'Brien's office, and Dawn Reiss-Melillo, a catering and
display cooking chef for Food Services, served as judges.
Food Services Director Meg Kingston, who oversees the event,
said she looks forward to seeing the creative recipes students submit
for consideration each year.
“It is the most fun event. I love to watch the
students organize and get excited about their recipes,” she said. “I'm
hoping that this opens the door for future culinary professionals."
Recipe submissions have become more advanced as the competition has grown each year.
Three steak-and-cheese sandwich recipes earned spots in this
year’s final round: Edison Ortiz from Edith E. Mackrille Elementary
School entered his "Big Eddie Sandwich,” Danny McCullough of Washington
Elementary School offered up his “Steak and Cheese Bomb,” and Ryan
Robinson from Alma E. Pagels Elementary School made his "Cow Combo."
Ava Alonso from Savin Rock Community School whipped up some
ambrosia, while Daniel Potter from Seth G. Haley Elementary School made
toast with hummus and avocado.
Parents and siblings cheered from the sidelines, as the
fourth-graders, clad in chef hats and coats, showed off their culinary
skills and served judges samples of their dishes. Each contestant
received a basket of kitchen gadgets, cookbooks, and herb and vegetable
But Jordan couldn’t believe his eyes when a staff member rolled
a bicycle into the cafeteria as his grand prize. He said he enjoys
cooking and that his contest entry is not his only specialty.
“I came up with the watermelon cake with my dad,” he said. “But I also like to make pancakes and macaroni and cheese.”