ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) – Hundreds of students participated in the Junior Iron Chef Vermont competition after a two-year hiatus.
“We love to cook, we enjoy cooking,” said Milton Town School 5th grader Madelyn Seymour Wigmore.
After a two-year hiatus due to COVID and a virtual cooking club, Junior Iron Chef Vermont is back at the Champlain Valley Expo, where middle and high school teams put on their game faces and compete for awards focused on teamwork, cooking local, and pleasing the crowd.
“It can lead to connections, a career opportunity, and an interest and a passion that can last forever,” said Vermont Afterschool Executive Director Holly Morehouse.
Officials say they encourage the teams to use local food and create dishes that could inspire their school meal programs.
“I think an emphasis on fresh and local food is really important for students to have a better understanding of where their food comes from and how it goes into their bodies and the nutrients it provides,” Edmunds Middle School Coach Jennifer Trapani.
There are 24 teams from schools all throughout the state and some teams say they’ve been working on their recipes for weeks. Desserts, appetizers, breakfast and lunch are all fair game.
“We made veggie sliders on polenta with Dijon sauce,” Wigmore said.
“We’re making squash browns, so basically it’s potato, beet, and squash mixed into little patties,” said Taryn Dolly, a 6th grader in Bakersfield.
Teams only have 90 minutes to perfect their dish, and then it’s in the hands of the judges.
“It helps shape the next generation, it helps bring home more cooks, and I’m sure these kids they can take what they’re learning and apply to their own lives, learn to cook for themselves, which is super important,” said Harmony Edosomwan, a judge from Harmony’s Kitchen.
“I’m not sure if we’ll win, but we got to have high hopes that we might,” Dolly said.
Students and educators alike agree this long-awaited contest has taught students more than just recipes.
“They’re exploring local food. Sometimes they’re building skills, but more than anything they just get excited about working as a team,” said Betsy Rosenbluth, a project director for Vermont Feed at Shelburne Farms.
“We also got to meet people from other teams, and there’s a lot of really nice people from other teams out here,” said 6th grader Fiona Iganew.
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