The kids don aprons, get out measuring cups and spoons and preheat the ovens. They are ready to create masterpiece meals. And they are ready to win.
The Student Chef Competition gives island youth a chance to whip up tasty delights and receive awards. Think of Orcas Has Talent, but with food in place of music and magic tricks.
“It’s the sweetest thing on earth,” said Madie Murray, director of the Farm to Cafeteria program at the school district.
This Fourth Annual Student Chef Competition is held at the Orcas Island School, Saturday, April 6 from 9 a.m. to about 3 p.m. with a taco feast dinner following for a donation of $10.
This year’s recipes must be an entree item from Mexico that could be prepared and served as a school lunch. Students are encouraged to explore all the areas of Mexico because ingredients and seasonings vary from region to region. So far students have submitted recipes like quinoa taco salad, Mexican egg cups, Mexican meatballs, chili rellenos and chile and lime steak tacos with black bean tomatillo salsa dip.
The event was inspired by Orcas School student Iris Parker-Pavitt, who planted the idea in Murray’s head back in 2009.
“This year we are going to have a pretty full slate and a lot of recipes,” Murray said. “More entrees from the higher grades then before.”
This year also marks the first time that the competition will be followed by a dinner.
“All of the contestants can come and celebrate their efforts,” Murray said. “It’s quite an effort on everyone’s part.”
Local judges will determine the winning entry, which must include at least three items that are grown or raised locally. The dish must “look inviting, taste good and have nutritional value” according to the competition guidelines.
“I am excited and nervous,” said Mijitas restaurant owner Raul Rios, who will be judging the elementary division. “It’s my first time being a judge. It’s going to be so fun.”
The competition also gives kids a chance to gain confidence about their cooking.
Previous contestant Arla Sutton won two years at the competition and then was one of 54 students ages eight to 12 who won a trip to the White House to attend the very first “Kids’ State Dinner” hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama. Her recipe for salad noodle wraps won over all other entries in the entire state of Washington.
“It could take you to great heights,” said Murray about how the competition helped Sutton hone her skills. “You never know where it will take you.”
Contestants in kindergarten through sixth grade will compete in the morning. Students in seventh to 12 grade will perform in the afternoon. The awards will be presented at the end of each segment. There will be an opportunity for the audience to taste some of the dishes.
“It’s great to be there and smell all this wonderful food,” Murray said. “And to see how the students are so intent.”
To view last year’s competition, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfZP_PGKPQw.