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By Rosemarie Kempton
Source: Napa Valley Register
On Earth Day, the enormous kitchen at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena was abuzz with activity as eight teams of fifth-graders, with the help of professional chef mentors, competed in the Junior Cooking Challenge.
Wearing chef’s jackets and toques, 60 students from McKinley Elementary School in Petaluma were chopping, measuring, pouring and stirring as they prepared school lunches from menus they had helped create.
The competition was the culmination of a program sponsored by Clover Sonoma and the nonprofit Conscious Kitchen to help inform and inspire students to understand the impact of fresh, local, organic food on health, climate, agricultural systems, community, and the planet.
In addition, the program emphasized the importance of preparing nutritious food based off the FLOSN method – fresh, local, organic, seasonal, non-GMO within a budget.
The students were challenged to develop, prepare and serve a delicious federally-compliant school lunch that could be served in a school setting for $2.25 or less per serving.
Working with well-known Sonoma County chefs who were volunteering their time, the students prepped, cooked and plated their recipes to a panel of community leaders and judges in front of parents, teachers and residents in Food Network’s Junior Chef style.
As teams worked with their mentor chefs, they received both culinary tips and motivation to win the competition.
“I know it’s very difficult, but, luckily, we’ve got the A team here. We’re going to be able to do it,” Chef Mark Stark told Team Stark & Company members.
“I’m going to show you the first one and then everybody is going to do one, right? Take your time. Make it look pretty because you eat with your eyes first. You think, oh, that’s so pretty I can’t eat it. And then, what do you do?”
“Eat it,” the students responded.