Farmington students will square off in junior chef competition this weekend
Event designed to promote love of cooking in young people
- A total of 32 students on 16 teams ranging from one to four students each will compete in the inaugural Junior Chef Competition.
- The event takes place from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 at Scorpion Arena on the campus at Farmington High School.
- Students will be using their own recipes to create dishes that dovetail with the competition theme of "New Mexico Proud."
FARMINGTON — While the Farmington Municipal School District has several extracurricular activities aimed at drawing the participation of students in areas ranging from athletics to media to music, the district has never offered its young people with an interest in culinary arts a chance to shine — until now.
A total of 32 students on 16 teams ranging from one to four students each will compete in the inaugural Junior Chef Competition from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, at Scorpion Arena on the campus at Farmington High School, 2200 N. Sunset Ave. in Farmington.
Kelli Stradling, the district's food service director, said she came up with the idea for the event after seeing another district do something similar through one of her social media accounts.
"We wanted to get all the kids with an interest in cooking involved in this event," she said.
Stradling was hoping to attract at least 10 teams to the competition and was pleasantly surprised when 16 of them registered. That response already has led her and other district officials to decide to make the competition an annual event.
Those students will be using their own recipes to create dishes that dovetail with the competition theme of "New Mexico Proud." They'll be competing for a grand prize that includes a $1,000 scholarship opportunity and lesser awards that include gift certificates from a variety of local businesses.
Students will meet at the gym early in the morning with the equipment and supplies they have brought from home. Stradling said each team is allowed to bring with it 10 staple items that cannot have a cumulative value of more than $15, and none of those items can be perishable. The district will supply the teams with such ingredients as meat, milk, eggs and butter, she said.
Students also will have the chance to visit the mobile market truck from the San Juan College Food Hub, where they will be allowed to spend $15 in tokens on other ingredients, namely fresh produce. They then will have one hour to set up their stations before the competition commences.
Each team will be required to prepare one presentation plate and one tasting plate for the judges, Stradling said. After the judges have sampled the dishes and made their decisions, an awards ceremony will follow.
Members of the public are invited and encouraged to attend the competition, she said, explaining that generating community excitement is a significant element in the event.
"We're hoping for community involvement," she said. "We want people to show up and cheer."
But the main purpose of the event is to provide students with some practical knowledge and skills they can put to good use as they grow older, Stradling said.
"Our goal with this is to impart a love for food and cooking with students," she said, noting that organizers also hope to get students in the habit at an early age of establishing relationships with local growers.
The students in the competition will range from fourth-graders to ninth-graders. Stradling said organizers initially were worried about allowing younger students to participate, but they ultimately decided they didn't want to squelch that enthusiasm.
The earlier in life that students get in the habit of cooking for themselves, especially with healthy ingredients, the more likely they are to avoid relying on a fast food diet when they become young adults, she acknowledged.
"We want to show these kids a love for buying healthy food and cooking it," she said.
Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or email@example.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.