Cooking Competition Week: Week 5, Northfield, MN

This week, the young chefs got to try something new. They all participated in a cooking competition with an assortment of different ingredients, some they got to choose and others they had to make do with.

The young chefs came into the classroom and were divvied into different creative teams. Each team got to choose a noodle to form the base starch of their dish. There was regular pasta, rice noodles, and spinach fettuccini. On top of that, the groups also selected a mystery ingredient that they needed to incorporate into their dish. One group took some foraged mushrooms, another took some crushed walnuts, and the last grabbed a blackened plantain. All three groups left the can of sardines on the table. Something seemed fishy about that…

Besides for these staple ingredients, each team was also given 75 “culinary dollars” to spend on vegetables, cheeses, and fruits of their choosing. After the selection of the ingredients, each team broke off to discuss the meal they wanted to prepare. Before cooking, the judges made it clear that they were looking for creativity as well as a tasty meal. They young chefs started the process, trying to come up with a flavorful combination that showcased all their delicious and weird ingredients.

After an hour, the groups presented their masterpieces to two volunteers sitting eagerly at the judges’ table. The first group, who used rice noodles, made a sumptuous dish that incorporated the plantain nicely with some other salty components.

The second group, who used regular pasta, made a delicious Greek/Italian fusion with a tomato red sauce infused with rosemary and topped with crumbling feta cheese.

The last group, using the spinach fettuccine, presented an elegant green display of pasta layered with different types of cheese and surrounded by a bed of spinach to highlight the complexity in the pasta.

The Judges conferred and decided that while everyone brought their own creativity and nuanced flavors to the dish, the winner was the last group. Their presentation and creativity gave them the slight edge.

The young chefs happily passed around their dishes, getting to sample the other groups’ pastas and recounting the details with regards to their own preparation.

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