15 Sep 2014
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Future Chefs Winner Named in Naugatuck

Five fourth grade chefs competed to create the best healthy sandwich.

School administrators, teachers, Board of Education members, cafeteria staff, parents and siblings came out on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 to support the five students from all over our district who competed in the district finals of Sodexo’s Future Chefs Competition. Students prepared healthy sandwich recipes that were graded by a distinguished panel of judges.

After dressing in the Sodexo uniforms and being briefed on safety procedures, the five fourth graders began preparing their recipes promptly at 3:15pm in the culinary room AE124 at Naugatuck High School. Five mentor chefs, students of Applied Education teacher Mrs. Doherty, paired up with the young chefs and volunteered their time well after the high school dismissed to assist with the preparation of the sandwiches. Thank you to NHS senior Alex Squires, junior Kevin Stephansen, senior Bradley Becker, senior John Fonseca and senior Tara Mahoney.

Parents were not allowed into the kitchen as the food was prepared, but watched from the adjacent classroom that was set up with the judges table and a small table for each chef to display their masterpieces. Each of the five competitors plated up a presentation dish, four judges plates, and samples for the spectators to sample. I later wished that the samples had been cut into smaller pieces so that everyone could have tasted all of the appealing entries. The three I got to taste were delicious.

The competition was sponsored by Sodexo, the company that administers the school cafeterias in the district, and is a national competition. The winner of the borough cook-off will go on to compete at the regional level with 29 other contestants. The final five chefs will have a video of themselves preparing their recipe posted on YouTube and viewers will vote for their favorite recipe.

When all five students had finished their preparation, they presented their sandwich to the four judges a la the reality show Top Chef. There were 25 recipes submitted to the contest and the five chosen competitors are listed below.

Kalangi Pedro, a fourth grade student in Mrs. MacDonald's class at Salem School, made a tuna salad sandwich that included celery, onions and lettuce.

Samantha Mullin, who is a fourth grader in Mrs. Piscitelli's class at Western School, invented "Sam's Turkey Meatball Sub" that featured Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce.

Nadia Cestari, a student at Andrew Avenue School in Mrs. LaCharity's fourth grade, whipped up a "Quesadilla Wrap" that had two colors of peppers, avocado and cheddar cheese.

Cayla Howard is a fourth grade student at Maple Hill School in Miss Galiette's class. Her sandwich was called "The Health Factor" and included chicken on Ciabatta bread with spinach, pesto spread, Swiss and Feta cheese.

Mia Grella is another fourth grader at Maple Hill School and is in Mrs. Pelkey's class. She called her entry "Italian CMT" and the panini featured grilled chicken, mozzarella, balsamic dressing and basil.

The judges on the panel included Assistant Superintendent of Schools Christopher Montini, Assistant Business Manager Bernice Rizk, BOE Vice Chair Dorothy Neth-Kunin and Diane Nardelli from Nardelli's Grinder Shoppe. The recipes were judged on originality, healthy attributes, easy preparation, kid friendliness and plate presentation.

When the ballots were tallied, the four runner ups were announced in no particular order and awarded a medal and gift bag. The winner was declared by Kate Murphy, director of food services for the borough.

The Health Factor by Ms. Howard from Maple Hill was named the winning sandwich and  the lucky winner was awarded an HP laptop in addition to her medal. The Health Factor sandwich will be offered on the menu at Nardelli's and Ms. Nardelli confirmed that for each one sold, $1.00 will be donated to the culinary department at Naugatuck High School.

Congratulations to all of the participants. Best of luck to the winning chef as she moves on to the regional competition.

The winning chef's high school mentor was incorrectly identified in my original post. It has been corrected and I am sorry for the error.

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