A group of 7th-grade students enrolled in the Family and Consumer Science program at Kenmore Middle School won the 10th Annual Real Food for Kids Culinary Challenge on Saturday, March 5, 2022. Kenmore won first place in the lunch category for their Quinoa Crust Quiche and Apple, Arugula, Walnut salad.
The culinary theme of this year’s competition was Buy Local, Eat Local and asked students to source 50% or more of their ingredients locally or regionally. The team of four students, led by Kenmore Family and Consumer Science teacher, Ms. Mischa Bilanchone, included Andre Larue, Ellie Leichtman, Norah Talbot- Lilly, and Katelyn Cherbas. Kenmore’s team sourced local ingredients from Giant (headquartered in Landover, MD), using spinach grown by ‘Bright Farms’ located in Cumberland, VA, as well as local, raw, unfiltered honey. The choice to use local honey was made in order to raise awareness about the importance of protecting native plants and pollinators.
The competition was held at Hayfield Secondary School and involved students representing a total of 6 middle schools and high schools in the DMV region. The team of judges for the event included Kevin Tien, Executive Chef, Moon Rabbit; Shelby McCrone, Co-Executive Chef for Junction Bakery and Bistro Brand; David Hagedorn, Restaurant critic; Stefano Marzon, Founder, President and Executive of MightyMeals; Shane Logan, VA Department of Education, Office of School Nutrition Programs and Dahlia Badt, Student (7th Grader), Takoma Park Middle School, Montgomery County, MD, Winner of the 2021 Culinary Challenge.
A version of the recipe created by Kenmore students may soon be featured on the Silver Diner menu, and will be adapted for school lunch menus throughout the DMV area. The winning group of Kenmore students developed these recipes over the course of this school year, meeting after school to prepare and test versions of the recipe along the way. With support from Mary Porter (RFFK Program Director) and feedback from Chef Ype Von Hengst (Cofounder and Executive Chef of Silver Diner) they created a winning combination of Quinoa Crust Quiche and Apple, Arugula Walnut salad.
Real Food for Kids is an advocacy organization that has sponsored a Culinary Challenge for middle and high school FACS students since 2012. The goal is “to engage and support students in Family and Consumer Sciences and Culinary Arts electives, foster their ambition to create innovative, nutritious dishes that influence school meal programs, and provide a project-based learning platform for teachers.”
The challenge is one faced by cafeteria workers daily, to create healthy and delicious school lunch items that adhere to USDA nutritional guidelines and cost less than $2.70/student. This competition is the only cooking competition open to both middle and high school students in the DMV area. Other schools that participated in the competition included Blue Ridge Middle School, Franklin Middle School, Chantilly Academy, Herndon High School and Takoma Park Middle School.
Kenmore’s team is thrilled to be recognized among such talented young chefs. We knew the competition would be tough, but we were not fully aware of how challenging the process would be. Our team worked for months on research and development of our recipes, preparing and testing many iterations along the way. The final product is something we all love and are extremely proud of. Who knew you could make quinoa and tofu taste so good?
Hearing Chef Ype Von Hengst talk about our dish during the panel discussion and how he plans to add a version of our recipe to his menu at Silver Diner was incredible. We were elated and shocked by the overwhelmingly positive feedback we received during the public tasting. Parents were asking for the recipe because their children wanted Quinoa Crust Quiche for dinner! The moment first place was announced is one that neither the students nor myself will ever forget. As the envelope was opened, we stood in total silence with our arms linked together. When Chef Kevin Tien said, “first place goes to…Kenmore Middle School,” our first reaction was disbelief, quickly followed by tears of joy (Ms. Bilanchone) and a big group hug. We can’t wait to find out what next year’s theme will be!