DCSD students compete in culinary challenge, share masterpieces
Rocky Heights Middle School wins Teen Chef title
HIGHLANDS RANCH – Students from the Family & Consumer Science classes at three Douglas County School District (DCSD) schools got an amazing opportunity: a chance to serve the meal they designed to hundreds of elementary students on Colorado Proud School Meal Day.
Only a few days before, the students from Rocky Heights and Sagewood middle schools and Ponderosa High School won the opportunity to share their culinary masterpieces after taking part in Teen Chef: Cafeteria Wars. Before the culinary challenge, organized by DCSD Nutrition Services, the students had to come up with recipes that incorporated four Colorado-produced foods including a wheat tortilla, chicken tenders, fingerling potatoes and watermelons. Nutrition Services takes pride in serving locally produced food, when possible, because it supports the Colorado economy and celebrates our State’s heritage.
“We had our basic menu planned, but these kids really took it to some new variations on the theme,” said Amy Faricy, Nutrition Service’s Dietitian and Manager of Menu Services.
Additionally, students also had to meet the FDA’s strict nutritional guidelines for school lunches.
“We tested for that,” explained Nutrition Services Director Brent Craig. “They submitted their recipes and then we would run the analysis so that they did not have too much fat, salt or sugar.
Then, during the event, the teen chefs had one hour to bring those recipes to life.
“I really enjoyed watching to see how well these kids worked together,” said Craig. “To pull it off in one hour, I was really impressed by that.”
Chefs from Johnson and Wales University’s culinary program judged the meals on four criteria: creativity, presentation, taste and food safety. Rocky Heights Middle School won the competition.
“Truthfully, I was a bit surprised that a middle school won. I figured that the high school had the advantage given their curriculum and experience,” Craig said. “[Rocky Heights] was rightfully proud of the fact that they came in and had a slam dunk."
"What I'm most proud of from this event is how our Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers will take this experience back to their classrooms to impact students experiences with the 4Cs and authentic assessments," explained Sheri Bryant, DCSD's CTE coordinator.
Below are the delicious menus from each school:
First Place ($750 prize): Rocky Heights Middle School
- Tortilla-crusted chicken tenders with a Mexican rice with potatoes
- Watermelon vinaigrette for Harvest Bar salads
Second Place ($500 prize): Ponderosa High School
- Shredded Enchilada chicken over Colorado fingerling potatoes.
- Watermelon and cantaloupe salad
- Sugar and cinnamon tortilla crisps
Third Place ($250 prize): Sagewood Middle School
- Enchilada chicken roll-up with the fingerling potatoes
- Watermelon sticks with yogurt dip
Each team did such a great job that in addition to a cash prize, they were invited by Nutrition Services to serve their menu to an elementary school on Colorado Proud School Meal Day, September 30.
The winning Rocky Heights team served students at Eldorado Elementary, with a little help from DCSD’s executive chef, Ryan Repplinger. As you can imagine it took a little bit of critical thinking and collaboration to figure out how to adjust the original recipe for eight people to feed 200 hungry students.
“It took some guidance, but the meal at Eldorado went flawlessly,” Craig said. “The kids in the cafeteria really liked the product.”
The event was such a success that Nutrition Services is looking to occasionally incorporate some of the items into their menu.
“I know the cinnamon sugar tortilla crisps that Ponderosa did were a huge hit,” said Faricy. “Who knows, maybe those will be a special feature on our menu.”
Additionally, in February, they are planning to provide elementary students with an opportunity to participate. Just in time for National School Breakfast Week, the kids will have the opportunity to design their favorite breakfasts for a competition between elementary schools.