I had the pleasure of attending Future Chefs‘ Healthy School Food Competition / Career Exploration Day on Saturday January 21st at Quincy High School.  Future Chefs is a non-profit organization which mentors high school students interested in culinary careers in the Greater Boston Area.  The organization, founded by Toni Elka in 2008, provides school to career counseling, skill-building curriculum, volunteer and internship opportunities, as well as some culinary scholarships.  

Saturday’s event marked the first venture into the world of school food for Future Chefs.  After a lively panel discussion with a group of Boston Area chefs, students divided into teams and got cooking!  Lead by Laura Zientek, a former Americorps Vista with the BPS Farm to School Initiative, the challenge was to create a healthy school lunch consisting of a whole wheat pizza, a vegetable side dish, and a low-fat dessert.   

After the cooking was complete, we all sat down to a mouth-watering lunch while the judges deliberated.  Among the many delicious creations was a barbeque chicken pizza made with homemade barbeque sauce instead of tomato sauce, a homemade pineapple gelato made with fresh pineapple and buttermilk, and a pesto chicken salad with a homemade creamy yogurt-based dressing. 

Needless to say, the judges had a no easy job.  In the end, the Quincy High School team was awarded best overall meal with its veggie deluxe pizza, Asian style chicken slaw, and homemade pineapple gelato.  The award for best individual dish went to Everett High School’s pesto chicken salad.  Somerville High School took the prize for best presentation with their “secret ingredient” healthy brownies, which the team later revealed were made with black beans. 

Thanks for a great day, Future Chefs, and congratulations to all the participants on a job well done!

All photos in this post are ©Laura Widness of Ruby Shoes Photography 2012.  Check out more great work by Laura here.

— Alexandra Emmott,  Boston Public Schools Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program Coordinator