Northgate students take to the kitchen

Northgate’s award-winning young chefs, from left: Madison Garcea, Zoe Russell, William Smith, Khirya Williams, Caitlyn Garvin, Marina Cirrincione, Braden Largent. Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen

Last week marked the seventh year for Northgate elementary students to display their cooking skills in the annual Young Chefs Cooking Contest sponsored by Sodexo Food Services.

Under the direction of Julianne Griffin, general manager for Sodexo at Northgate, the event began in January when students in grades 3-6 were encouraged to fill out recipe cards for this year's “Healthy Mexican Food” theme. Griffin received 29 recipes, from which seven finalists were chosen.

Chef Nick Senske, executive chef at Shannopin Country Club, along with Chef Zeke Fuchs and Chef John King, chef and owner of Revival on Lincoln, along with Avalon Elementary secretary Nancy Silay judged the food prepared in the high school cafeteria.

Winners were awarded points in the following categories: kid appeal, healthy attributes, ease of preparation, plate presentation, originality and taste. In addition, they were awarded one bonus point for each of the following items that were used in their recipe: brown rice, black beans, sweet potatoes, pork, fish, avocados, plantains, and veggie crumbles.

Finalists in the contest included Marina Cirrincione, fourth grade, Bellevue: Mexican Lava Bites; Caitlyn Garvin, fourth grade, Avalon: the Taco Burger; Madison Garcea, third grade, Avalon: Madison's Rice Bowl; Braden Largent, sixth grade, Avalon: Braden's Kickin' Quesadillas; Zoe Russell, fourth grade, Bellevue: Zoe's Pig-out Tacos; William Smith, fifth grade, Bellevue: Sweet and Spicy Plantain Tacos; and Khirya Williams, fourth grade, Bellevue: Khirya's Mexican Salad.

Following 70 minutes of prep time in the kitchens, the chefs presented their culinary creations to the judges, who sampled the food and named five of the finalists bronze medal winners, with William Smith being awarded a silver medal and Khirya Williams being named gold medalist.

This year's winning student will have the opportunity to compete against other area Sodexo schools, with 40 regional winners being named on April 4, and five semi-finalists being chosen on April 10. During the week of April 22-28, family and friends will have the chance to vote for the finalist on YouTube, with the grand champion winner being announced on April 29.