If the third time’s a charm, then it worked for Robert F. Kennedy fifth-grader Emily Figueroa, who won Sodexo’s 2015 Future Chefs Challenge with her Apple Parfait, a colorful medley of fruit, yogurt and high-fiber cereal.
Figueroa joined with 17 other Providence elementary school students from eight schools in the fourth year of this annual competition that challenged students to use their creativity and culinary skills to create healthy after-school snacks. The event is coordinated by Lori Richard, operations manager for Sodexo.
The semifinalists were chosen from a total of 96 recipes submitted by third, fourth and fifth graders at the city’s elementary schools.
On a snowy morning of the March 21 competition, the students arrived at the Providence Career and Technical Academy Cafeteria at 8:30 a.m. and were given a chef’s hat, apron, jacket and cutting knife, courtesy of Sodexo. They worked alongside Sodexo staff, who had the recipe ingredients prepared and ready to assemble in sample sizes for the judges along with a more creative display of their dish.
As their parents waited and judges arrived, students quickly finished their preparations and headed out to the PCTA Cafeteria to await the judges’ sampling. This year’s judges included Doris De Los Santos, executive director of development, partnerships and community engagement for the Providence Public School Department (PPSD); Jennifer Quigley-Harris, the new Wellness Coordinator for PPSD; Heather Snow of ROCHS Produce Co.; Raymond McCauley, assistant deputy state fire marshal and public education coordinator, and Cezar Reynoso, a Providence firefighter.
As they stopped at each table and chatted with students about their recipes, the judges rated each one for originality, healthy attributes, ease of preparation, kid appeal, plate presentation and the use of individual ingredients.
“This is a lovely community event for families and the school community,” said Quigley-Harris. ”It gives the students a chance to shine with something they love. I’m honored to be a part of it.”
Snow said the competition encouraged students to eat healthy and try new foods.
“It’s a great event,” said McAuley. “It’s incredible because it shows kids how to cook and eat healthy. They’re paying attention to ingredients and what they’re eating.”
In thanking parents and fellow judges, De Los Santos credited Sodexo for organizing the event and arriving early to work with students. She noted that preparations for the Future Chefs competition began many months ago. “This is a wonderful event that promotes healthy eating and fostering ideals that will last a lifetime.”
She commended the students for working hard in creating their recipes, trying them again and again until “you got it just right.”
Healthy eating has an important role in school, she added. “If we are healthy, we are more ready to learn in school and we have more energy. We also miss fewer days of school, which is so important to your education.”
Grace Diaz, senior advisor on community relations to Mayor Elorza and a state representative, told the students they would leave with a wonderful experience. “Congratulations – you are all winners because you participated in this wonderful event,” she said.
Dreams of opening her own restaurant someday
Then it was time to announce the winners. Three-time semifinalist Figueroa won first place and received a bicycle and helmet. “This is awesome,” she said.
Figueroa said she loves to cook and learned by cooking with her dad. She said her dream is to open her own restaurant.
Second-time semifinalist Astrid Berger of Martin Luther King Elementary School won second place for her Fruity Crunchy Munchy Parfait. She took home a WiiU Fit Bit.
Both winners, along with each semifinalist, received a Whole Foods bag filled with kitchen gadgets, a medal and certificate for their participation.
Figueroa, along with finalists from 230 other districts, will be considered for regional finalist awards. Selected regional finalists will vie to become one of five national finalists competing for the public’s vote on a special Future Chefs YouTube channel.
The national initiative was created to get students thinking about making healthy food choices while also encouraging them to be active and creative in the kitchen. The Providence Public School District joined more than 2,500 other students representing over 1,000 Sodexo-served school sites in 29 states nationally in this fun and educational challenge.
Emily Figueroa, Robert F. Kennedy Elementary School
- 1 Green apple
- 1 Small container of fat free vanilla yogurt
- Kashi brand high fiber cereal
- 1/2 Cup diced Strawberries
- 1/2 Cup diced Pineapple
- 1/2 Cup diced Mango
Cut the top off of your apple and use a melon baller to core out the center:
- Your apple will now be your “bowl”.
- 2. Fill the center of your apple with yogurt
- 3. Top your yogurt with Kashi cereal
- 4. Top your Kashi with the diced mixed fruit
- 5. Enjoy your Healthy Snack!