The competition was held at the Providence Career and Technical Academy (PCTA) High School Cafeteria and offered Providence elementary school students the opportunity to learn about nutrition while honing their culinary skills with health and wellness partner Sodexo. Lori Richard, operations manager for Sodexo, coordinated the event as part of National Nutrition Month in March.
As the district winner, Shayla will be considered for 27 regional finalist awards. Those regional winners will be narrowed down to five finalists competing for public votes for their favorite recipe on a special Future Chefs YouTube channel.
Students were required to create a healthy salad and received two bonus points for the use of any of the following items: black beans, chicken, dried herbs and spices, eggs, ground beef, mango, pineapple, roasted potato or sweet potato, strawberries, taco meat, tortillas or turkey.
A total of 29 Providence elementary school students submitted healthy salad recipes and the 12 best were selected to participate in the districtwide finals event on Saturday. They prepared their creations in the expansive PCTA kitchen with the assistance of a Sodexo mentor and then presented their healthy salads for judging based on originality, taste, presentation, kid friendliness and the use of healthy ingredients.
The judging panel included Superintendent Dr. Susan Lusi as well as School Board Member and Health and Wellness Committee Chair Phanida Philvilay; Michael Collette, pastry arts instructor at the PCTA High School; Mario Santilli, culinary arts instructor at PCTA; and Doris Blanchard, president of DB Consulting.
The second place winner was Breona Braxton, whose Granola Bar Salad consisted of strawberries, pineapple, mango and chopped granola bars on a bed of baby greens. A fifth grader at Robert F. Kennedy Elementary School, Breona won a Circus Animal waffle iron with sweet potato batter and a jar of pure maple syrup.
The remaining elementary school finalists, who each received third place awards, are: Nicol Monica Disla and Laura Monteiro, Asa Messer at Bridgham; Emily Figueroa, Robert F. Kennedy; Crystal Castaneda and Jonah Diakite, George J. West; Lelah Gormley and Nayada Ya, Highlander Charter School; Madison Koron and Serena Lalli, Martin Luther King, Jr.; and Eunixa Estremera, Young & Woods.
Each finalist received a potholder, apron, chefs hat, t-shirt and a long-sleeved shirt embroidered with the Future Chefs logo, a plastic serrated lettuce knife, a backpack filled with a Healthy Family cookbook from Johnson & Wales University and cooking supplies. All participants also received a medal and the winners may have their salads included in the school lunch menu.
In thanking the volunteers who coordinated the event and assisted the students, Supt. Lusi said, We know that healthy eating means healthy kids. We are so grateful to Sodexo for organizing this wonderful event to help our kids learn to create healthy meals and for all they do to improve the well-being of our students.
Providence joins more than 140 other school districts across the United States holding Future Chefs events throughout February and March. The national Future Chefs program, in its third year and part of Sodexos commitment to bolstering healthy communities, was created to help students make healthy food choices while encouraging them to be active and creative in the kitchen.