'Kitchen stadium' gets a youthful spin
St. Lawrence Central School students in Brasher Falls compete in an in-school cook-off for a chance to participate in the Health Initiative's North Country Jr. Iron Chef event. Photo Credit: Sarah Bentley-Garfinkel
Anyone who's been lulled into the culinary bliss of the Food Network knows Kitchen Stadium – the cooking venue on steroids where world-class chefs compete against America's Iron Chef.
A new event in northern New York is reimagining the food excesses par excellence of Kitchen Stadium. The North Country Jr. Iron Chef competition describes itself as "a positive, hands-on experience with healthy food for youth, shown to increase the likelihood that students will select and consume these foods." That's a long way from competing to cook truffles 250 different ways.
What's interesting to me is that the event isn't just a chance to get kids cooking via popular culture. It's also encouraging creative thinking about the USDA's new regulations for school food. Sarah Bentley-Garfinkel of the St. Lawrence Health Initiative, which is organizing the competition, wrote me in an e-mail that the idea is to work towards solutions to the challenges the new rules created:
School food service directors and staff work within stringent nutrition guidelines, which are both extremely important for the health of students and incredibly challenging to execute in school kitchens. One goal is for teams to engage with cafeteria staff to better understand these challenges, and lend their inherent creativity and enthusiasm to develop recipes that are viable, tasty and healthy options that students will eat.
21 different teams from 15 school districts from Lisbon to Peru have already signed up to do food battle. Friday, January 18th is the deadline to sign up. But there are just 5 high school and 2 middle school slots left.
The big event is March 9th. I wonder if Alton Brown will make a surprise appearance?