Students were asked to create plant-forward meals that reflected the school community, as well as their cultural and lived experiences, for this year’s event organized by the McLean, Va.-based nonprofit Real Food for Kids.
Since 2012, the Real Food for Kids Culinary Challenge has provided students the unique experience of mirroring the responsibilities of school nutrition professionals by creating delicious, healthy school meals that represent the diverse culinary traditions in our school communities. All while staying within the defined nutrition parameters and cost thresholds of the federally funded National School Meal Program.
It is the only professional culinary competition open to both middle and high school students, and the only competition where students have an opportunity to see their recipe adapted and served on school lunch lines around the Greater Metropolitan Region.
Students at TPMS prepared the following traditional Ethiopian dishes for their Culinary Challenge entries: Ethio-nada, a tomato-based red lentil stew seasoned with berbere spices within whole wheat empanada dough; Atakilt Wot, a cabbage, potato, and carrot-based dish seasoned with homemade spices; and Ethiopian Spris, a mixed fruit smoothie drink layered with spinach, banana, and vanilla yogurt on the bottom, along with frozen fruit such as mango, strawberries, peach, pineapple, and vanilla yogurt.
Students from high schools and middle schools in the Washington, D.C. area were invited to participate in the competition. To prepare breakfast, lunch, and snack options for their school cafeterias, competitors used approved ingredients and USDA school nutrition guidelines.
Culinary Mentors for this year included Ype Von Hengst, co-founder and executive chef of Silver Diner and Silver New American Brasserie; Bonnie S. Benwick, former Washington Post Deputy Recipe Editor; RFFK Culinary and Program Advisor; and Ryan Moore, Executive Chef at Sababa.
This year’s judges included Chef Tim Ma, Founder & CEO of Lucky Danger; Lindsey Fern, Director of Beverage for The Inn at Little Washington and Patty O’s Café and Bakery; Daniella Senior, CEO of Colada Shop; Chef Katherine Thompson, Pastry Chef and Co-Owner of Thompson Italian; Chef Jerome Grant, James Beard-nominated founding chef of Sweet Home Café at the National Museum of African American History; Ed Kwitowski, RFFK Board + DC Public Schools, Food and Nutrition; Allison Sosna, Director of Community Nutrition and Procurement at Tangelo; and former two-time Culinary Challenge participant Forrest Gonia.
Photo Courtesy of Real Food For Kids