Three Milby High School culinary students were transformed into real world chefs on Thursday, as they led the campus kitchen staff in preparing an award-winning meal for fellow students.
Students Jordyn Moore, Roberto Blas, and Estevan Mata — collectively named the Broadway Buffs — were the second-place winners of the national Cooking Up Change competition, which they advanced to in June after winning top honors in the district’s competition earlier this year.
As part of their prize, the team got to serve their award-winning three-course meal – zucchini pasta with Cajun chicken, pinto bean and tomato soup, and bananas with yogurt — to their fellow students.
“I like the zucchini noodles with Cajun chicken,” Junior Leslie Quijada said after sampling the dish. “The Cajun chicken was the best part. It is very flavorful.”
Her sister, Debbie Quijada, said she preferred the bananas benedict: “I really like the element of having real banana slices in it.”
The meal was developed as part of the Cooking Up Change contest, which challenges high school students to create healthy, tasty menus that adhere to the nutritional and financial requirements of the national school meal program. Each dish must cost no more than $1.40 per serving.
Prior to serving their dishes, the Buffs met with HISD Nutrition Services chefs to help them plan and prep for the meal. They walked the cafeteria crew through each step of preparing and presenting their dishes and then joined in to help serve the meal.
The Buffs said they spent the week promoting their dish and encouraging their fellow students to try it on Thursday. But once the day came, the students admitted to being a little nervous.
“You never know what the kids will like,” Mata said, noting that the competition had helped him gain a true understanding of the challenges school districts face in trying to create healthy and appealing meals.
“I’m a little scared to know what they think,” Blas said. “I, personally, think it’s a great meal. I hope they think so, too.”
Turns out they had no reason to worry. A line of students gathered to try their meal as soon as the lunch bell rang.
Milby culinary instructor Carlos Ramos said he was proud to watched his students in action on Thursday.
“Cooking Up Change has been an amazing experience for our students. Being able to prepare a lunch menu from scratch, which was both nutritious and appealing to students, was a great challenge,” Ramos said. “Being able to serve their dishes at school and working together with the cafeteria staff allowed them to see cafeteria operations first hand.”