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March 20, 2014

CCS students bringing 'The Heat' to Iron Chef

By Jessica Reynolds The Daily Star
Cooperstown Crier

---- — Students from Otsego, Delaware, Schoharie and Montgomery county schools will go head-to-head in a particularly heated contest Saturday.

The Junior Iron Chef competition, which will be held at Delaware Academy Central School, will feature 14 teams from regional middle and high schools. The competition was planned and put together by the Bassett Research Institute’s 5-2-1-0 initiative, which combats childhood obesity, the Rural Health Education Network of Schoharie, Otsego and Montgomery Counties and Healthy Schools NY.

Through the competition, students will develop and prepare healthy recipes that could be realistically prepared in a school cafeteria using a combination of local and commodity foods, according to Bassett Medical Center’s Public and Media Relations Director Karen Huxtable. The competition, she said, will offer students a positive, hands-on experience with healthy foods, allow youths to learn about and build lifelong food-related skills, address school food issues and promote the incorporation of local food into school menus.

“I think it’s a wonderfully creative way to encourage healthy lifestyles and good nutrition,” Huxtable said.

Thomas Hohensee, coordinator of Bassett’s Healthy Schools NY, said the competition will be split in two divisions. The middle school division, with eight teams competing, will go from 9 a.m. to noon, he said, and the high school division, with six teams, will go from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Students will be given two local food items and two commodity food items, similar to what is provided to school cafeterias, Hohensee said.

“(Cooking) seems to be a lost art,” Hohensee said. “We want to get them excited about it and, at the same time, help them learn where their food comes from and that they can actually make stuff that tastes good.”

Competing teams, consisting of three to five youth members and one to two adult advisers, will fill the school cafeteria and will have an hour and a half to prepare their dishes which, Hohensee said, the teams have already created. Each team’s dish will be judged on presentation, if and how the local foods are highlighted and whether the recipe could potentially be served in a school cafeteria.

“The hope is that we can actually get their dishes on some of the school menus,” Hohensee said.

Judging the competition will be Joseph Yelich, superintendent of the Oneonta City School District; Sean Taylor, part of SUNY Delhi’s Culinary Arts Department; and Sonia Janiszewski, president of Farm Catskill, which is organizing the local produce donations that will be used on Saturday.

Local ingredients that will be used in the competition include whole wheat grain from Lucky Dog Farm in Hamden, maple syrup from Roxbury Mountain Maple and eggs from Rich Farm in South Kortright, she said. The competition will be a great way to highlight the great resources, she said, that are available locally.

“This is the first time we’ve done something like this,” Janiszewski said. “I’m excited to try what they come up with.”

Hohensee said middle and high schools in Edmeston, Cooperstown, Delhi, Sidney, Stamford and Amsterdam are just a handful that will be represented. 

Until the big day, the teams, which have some “interesting” names, Hohensee said, are busy perfecting their recipes.

“Cooperstown’s team is called ‘The Heat’ and are making ‘Smokin’ Enchiladas with Mole,’ Edmeston’s team, ‘The Cooking “Pan”thers’ will be making ‘Veggie Pockets’ and Delaware Academy’s team, ‘The Flaming Knives’ will be preparing ‘Vegetable Lasagna in Parmesan Cream Sauce,’” Hohensee said. “They got very creative.”