Westside High School culinary students deliver award-winning meal at inaugural competition

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Competition was stiff on Saturday, but the culinary team from Westside High School took home the trophy at the inaugural Cooking Up Change Competition to showcase tasty and nutritious school food.

“I have a deeper respect and knowledge for all that our cafeteria workers do to prepare food for all of the students in HISD,” said Westside’s Barrosha Boykin as she and her team accepted their trophies and prizes at the ARAMARK-sponsored contest, held at Rice University.

Joining Boykin on Team Westside were Andrew Winkle and Santiago Castaneda. The team showcased a Lonestar Chicken Chili Sub, parfait and grilled vegetables. Their recipes will be featured on next school year’s high school lunch menu. The team also earned the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. in June to compete in the national Cooking Up Change competition against more than 10 teams from across the nation. This was the first year the competition has been held in Texas, making HISD the first district to be represented in the national competition.

On Saturday, seven teams representing four high schools went head-to-head to deliver a complete school lunch meal at Rice University’s West Servery. To provide a real-world experience when cooking for schools, teams had to follow federal nutrition guidelines and budget constraints just as the HISD Food Services Department is tasked with. The teams followed a rigorous recipe development process with limited list of ingredients to create dishes that are low in calories, fat, sugar, and sodium.

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Each team stood in front of the audience and presented its main dish and two side items to the judges’ panel. Students had to present their menu in five minutes, describe ingredients and answer questions from the judges.

When asked by celebrity guest judge Christine Ha the inspiration behind their recipe, Davis High School’s Team #1 member Candy Diaz responded with, “How fun would it be for a student to wake up and get excited about Italian Day in the cafeteria? We wanted to create that excitement around our dish.” Ha, known as the first blind cook to compete in a television culinary competition, is the Season 3 winner of MasterChef.

In addition to Ha, guest judges included HISD Superintendent Terry Grier, ARAMARK Education/HISD Food Services Executive General Manager Ray Danilowicz; ARAMARK Senior Executive Chef at Reliant Park Mark Cornish; ARAMARK Minority Business Partner Darryl King; Director for Nutrition, Education and Outreach with Texas Department of Agriculture Beth Thorson and Lamar High School Culinary Arts Student Bennieka Harris. ARAMARK is the official National School Nutrition Partner/Sponsor of the competition.

Those in attendance had the opportunity to sample several items created by the other participating school teams including Barbara Jordan, Davis and Harper Alternative high schools. Other menus created included:

  • Barbara Jordan Team #1: Monica Sanchez and Mairuby Vargas; Menu: Philly Chicken Sandwich, Poached Pears and Fresh Sauteed Vegetables
  • Barbara Jordan Team #2: Brittany Garrett, Britana Hicks and Anjela Sanchez; Menu: Jammin’ Jerk Chicken, Brown Sugar Baked Apples, Fresh Spinach Salad
  • Barbara Jordan Team #3: Malik Preston and Christopher Zavala; Menu: Chicken Strips, Baked Bananas, Fresh Slaw
  • Davis Team #1: Candy Diaz, Rebecca Gonzales and Vaida Vasquez; Menu: Pollo Alla Cacciatora, Crema di Ricotta alla Frutta, Giardino Fresco
  • Davis Team #2: Elizabeth Garcia, Breana Kennedy and Alycia McCardell; Menu: Honey Buffalo Chicken Flatbread, Spiced “up a notch” Sweet Potato Hash
  • Harper Alternative: Jordan Baylor, Christian Divito-Castro and Paul McBride; Menu: Enchilada Olé, Dulce Compote, Fiesta Salad


While in Washington, D.C., Westside students will also have the opportunity to speak to Congress about the importance of having great-tasting and nutritious choices to enjoy at school, as well as their winning recipe.

Cooking up Change® is a national healthy cooking competition launched by Healthy Schools Campaign. Cooking up Change challenged students to create a school meal that meets nutrition standards, uses ingredients commonly available to school food service, requires only basic kitchen equipment and a minimal number of preparation steps, costs only about $1 for ingredients and most importantly that students will enjoy.