Future Chefs Challenge 2016

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 planting kits.

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.”

Future Chefs