Herndon HS Students See Original Recipe Replicated for Those in Need
The pandemic has changed how many things are done, including Real Food For Kids’ (RFFK) annual culinary challenge, open to middle and high school students in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) and the metropolitan area.
The third place finishers of the 2020 challenge—held virtually earlier this year—were the Herndon High School team of Liam Owens, Eli Shifflett, Alex Chang, and Ivonne Claros-Vigil. This team of two veterans and two students new to the competition saw their recipe for Carne Asada Tacos with Asian Slaw replicated through the Chefs Feeding Families’ Mighty Meals program that feeds those in need in the metro area. The Herndon team was invited to help serve meals at a recent distribution at Harvey Hall Apartments in Arlington earlier this summer, working alongside the professional chefs.
Mary Porter of RFFK says the competition gives students the opportunity to experience first-hand how they can create change in the community in addition to innovating in the kitchen. The relationship with Chefs Feeding Families provides the students with the chance to see their work “brought full circle,” and to watch people in need receive unique, creative dishes funded through the generosity of local chefs and members of the community.
“You ever want to grow a relationship with someone? Cook, bake, etc., just hop in the kitchen and let your maker mind go to work,” says Herndon team member Liam Owens. “Whether good, bad, or funny—either way the goal and challenge of the meal is what was fun.”
Ivonne Claros-Vigil says her Gourmet Foods class helped her in the competition “because I got to test out a lot of different spices, a lot of different foods, and traditions from other places which helped me a lot into the recipe process.” Claros-Vigil cooks at home with her mom, who “would always invite me to the kitchen and let me play around and discover new things, which was a really good start for me. When I found out that our recipe was going to help out with people in need, it made it more exciting and more nerve-racking because it’s a really good feeling knowing that you’re helping people and you’re helping the community.”
Teacher Lauren Spector explains that team members were enrolled in a Family and Consumer Sciences course during the 2019-20 school year or had previously been enrolled, where they learned safety and sanitation in the kitchen, knife skills, reading a recipe, and how to convert recipes to meet specific dietary needs. Team members are part of FCCLA, (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America), whose mission is to “promote personal growth and leadership development through Family and Consumer Sciences education.”
Spector and colleague Heather Palm introduced the challenge to students in the fall; competitors were required to register in October and begin to develop their recipes: either a USDA-compliant lunch meal, or a breakfast or snack recipe. Finished recipes were submitted in December, reviewed by a panel of food and nutrition services professionals, and returned to teams with suggestions for improvements. The competitive event was set for March 21 but, because of the pandemic, was held as a virtual event with videos submitted by teams and food service professionals and chefs drawing on their personal experiences to judge submissions.
The Chantilly Academy team of Tony Exley, Kylie Casey, and Jenna Novotny placed second for their recipe, Mediterranean Chicken Kabobs with Orzo Salad. In the breakfast competition, a team from South County Middle School won second place for their Sunshine Smoothie Shot, and a team from West Potomac High School won third place for their recipe, Bangin’ Guac Toast.