Milby High School recently was transformed into the site of an exciting cooking competition — complete with four celebrity chefs — as part of the Schwan’s Chef Collective K-12 Kitchen Collaborative Mystery Ingredient Cook-Off.
The cooking contest — which featured chefs from the Food Network and Top Chef — was the culmination of a week-long event that included student Q&A sessions and a visit to the student gardens at Atherton Elementary School and Gregory-Lincoln Education Center.
“We’ve had a great week expanding our minds,” Nutrition Services Operations Area Manager Chandra Blackwell said, noting the importance of partnering with Schwan’s to host the event, which focused on creating innovative recipes through a combination of creativity and nutritious foods.
Four cooking teams — led by Food Network celebrity chefs Jet Tila and Todd Erickson and Top Chef contestants Adrienne Wright and Stephanie Cmar — were tasked with creating new recipes using ingredients already in the school’s pantry.
The chefs — who together made up the Schwan’s Chef Collective — worked with HISD Nutrition Services chefs to develop meals that included one of the following mystery ingredients: shredded pork, chicken wings, shaved beef, teriyaki sauce, fried rice, beans, peas, carrots, edamame, mixed vegetables, and green chili peppers.
The four teams created a menu that included Korean barbecue beef tacos, pulled pork sandwiches with Asian-inspired slaw, barbecue pork cornbread bake with red cabbage slaw, and Vietnamese Beef Pho with vegetable egg roll.
Tila’s Korean barbecue beef tacos received the highest rating from the students. He said he hopes the synergy between Schwan’s and HISD will greatly benefit students.
“We’re seeking to bridge the gap between corporate food service and K-12 food,” Tila said.
Milby High School students Tony Robles, Denise Jimenez, Roberto Blas, Leslie Martinez, Freddy Foster, and Jasmine Martinez served as student judges and rated the culinary creations’ appearance, taste, and creativity, as well as their overall likelihood to order it.
Jimenez, a junior, said she enjoyed the tacos and the pho. But she was even happier to see the number of people who turned out to watch the cooking contest.
“I think we can all agree food is one of the things that brings people together,” Jimenez said.
Polly Madsen, manager of Culinary Initiatives at Schwan’s Company, said the goal is to develop recipes that are nutritious and taste great.
“Today’s a fun competition, but really what our hope is that one or more of these recipes will end up on the school lunch menu,” Madsen said.