The competition heated up Tuesday afternoon at Western Middle School when students joined Waterford Place residents for a timed cooking competition.
The competition, drawing inspiration from popular Food Network TV show “Chopped,” limits time and requires specific ingredients for an entree. Family and Consumer Science (FACS) teacher Charisse Smith said she came up with the idea one night while watching “Chopped Junior Champions.” Melissa Delrymple, Waterford Place’s Villa lifestyle director, coordinated with Smith to bring the residents.
Just like the TV show, Smith started the match with a “Ready, set, go!” Students swarmed a large island in the middle of the FACS lab covered in their required ingredients, pork or chicken, rice or potato, a vegetable and cranberries, and whatever else needed for the recipes. The atmosphere was tense but not chaotic, while some students checked tablets with recipes and others started chopping onions and preparing chicken breast.
The recipes varied. Kitchen 1 made chicken pot pie, Kitchen 2 made stuffed chicken breast, Kitchen 4 made cranberry sauce, Kitchen 5 made sushi and Kitchen 6 made pineapple and chicken stir fry. Kitchen 3 was left empty.
Like the TV show, entrees had to be prepared, cooked and plated in an hour. The entrees were then presented to judges, and scored on plating, best use of ingredients, creativity, technique and teamwork. Judges were Morris Chaney and Erika Lowry, divisional directors from Trilogy Health Services, the organization which operates Waterford Place, along with Dwight Casler, Smith’s father.
In the same fashion as the TV show, contestants put their hands in the air when the timer hit zero and groups had to present their meals to judges. The entrees were scored on plating, best use of ingredients, creativity, technique and teamwork, and Chopped Champion.
Kitchen 6 went home with the Chopped Champion and Best Technique awards. Plating was awarded to Kitchen 1, Teamwork was awarded to Kitchen 2, Creativity was awarded to Kitchen 5 and Best Use of Ingredients was awarded to Kitchen 4.
Kitchen 6, comprised of 8th graders Harlee Reel, Jada Sceggell and Bethany Smith, and resident Shirley Watson, was excited to be recognized. The recipe was out of the FACS club members’ comfort zone.
“This is very different from what I’ve made before,” Sceggell said. “We were worried about burning the pork.”
Watson was shy about how much she helped, but her teammates were quick to note her contributions.
“Cutting a pineapple is really hard,” Bethany Smith said. “(Watson) did it, we couldn’t figure it out. She was awesome.”
Watson said she enjoyed the competition so much that she hopes, if a similar event is held next year, to return.
Sixth-graders Breanna Degraffenreid and Molly Ousley, of Kitchen 5, said they chose sushi with the Creativity category in mind, and were excited to win.
“It was really stressful but very fun,” Degraffenreid said. “We wanted to do something that we usually wouldn’t pick.”
The pair said the sushi fell apart at the end, but they’d like to give it another shot.
“It was completely out of my comfort zone, but I think I’d like to try it again, maybe when there’s not a clock ticking,” Ousley said.
After the prizes were given out, the club members cleaned their kitchens and the classroom was quiet again.
Smith said bringing seniors and students together is a great way to make a community impact for the club, and Delrymple said she’s hoping that more residents will be interesting in participating next year.
“Our residents love anything with food,” she said. “They love being able to share their family recipes and have potlucks, so it didn’t surprise me when they were interested in doing this. You can tell they are so happy to be here.”
Smith said she was thrilled with the results, because the competition was a lot more than cooking.
“There was so much communication and expectations,” she said. “The kids had to choose the recipes and communicate everything they needed and what they expected to have, and how to navigate challenges. Those are the lessons that are more impactful than following a recipe. I am thrilled, they did awesome.”