By Shelby Pendowski, Enterprise intern
After an hour and a half of chopping, pealing, searing, sautéing and almost two hours of presenting, Glen Lake’s Elm 22 team won the title of the Ultimate Junior Iron Chef last Thursday.
“I just always loved to cook,” said Carson Leday, a Glen Lake eighth-grader. “I also thought it would be a lot of fun.”
Six county teams competed in the second annual event, which drew students from Glen Lake, St. Mary, Suttons Bay and Leland.
Last year Laura Miller, event organizer, applied for the Joan Rajkovich McGarry Grant. After seeing the program’s impact on students, Miller applied for a $5,000 grant this year to open the competition to every school in the county.
“It is to promote local, healthy eating,” Miller said. “It helps them to create foods that are nutritionally appropriate.
“They become healthy food ambassadors in their schools.”
Each of the six teams — Glen Lake’s Team Awesomesauce, the Leland Team, Glen Lake’s Elm 22, the 8th grade girls of St. Mary, the 7th grade St. Mary’s team and Suttons Bay — received $300 to buy food for the entire season. Meeting roughly six times over the course of a couple of months, the teams had to practice preparing dishes. The $300 allowed the teams to prepare an appetizer, a main dish with a side and a dessert multiple times.
The teams used the money to buy local, organic ingredients. For example, the Suttons Bay team concocted a completely organic Philly cheese steak that included a last minute morel hunt.
The dishes were scored by Ingrid Zrttei, Dave Ruszell, Greg Hard, Tara Zigler, Dave Gibbs, Mary Bellows and Etta Rajkovich. Each dish was judged on nutrition, taste, marketability, visual presentation and the use of local foods.
Team Awesomesauce created tortilla soup with blue corn tortilla chips on the side. St. Mary’s 7th grade team’s main dish was shrimp alfredo. Leland team’s Comet caviar and Elm 22’s homemade ginger custard with an almond cookie were hits.
“I really wanted our kids to be apart of this,” said Jackie Herman, St. Mary’s team advisor. “The kids are becoming more aware of what the school’s food guidelines are and why they are there.”
The St. Mary 8th grade girls finished third, behind the Leland Team. The top three teams received water bottles provided by The Harbor House. All participants including the judges received a gift certificate for one free sandwich to the The Village Cheese Shanty in Leland.
Rajkovich concluded the cook-off by congratulating all of the students on their hard work and thanked all in attendance.