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Mexican cuisine is theme at Franklin Elementary Top Chef competition

  • Franklin-cook-off-1-jpg

    Fifth grader Mary Taylor makes veggie burritos at the annual Franklin Elementary School cook-off Feb. 21.

    STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE

  • Franklin-cook-off-2-jpg

    Fifth grader Mary Taylor makes veggie burritos at the annual Franklin Elementary School cook-off Feb. 21.

    STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE

  • Franklin-cook-off-3-jpg

    Fifth graders Adrionnah Pinkston, left, makes Southwest salads, and Brianna Hartwick, makes healthy loaded nachos, at the annual Franklin Elementary School cook-off Feb. 21.

    STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE

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ELYRIA — Once the judges’ votes were tallied, Adrionnah Pinkston’s Southwest salad creation took first place Thursday in Franklin Elementary School’s Top Chef competition.

Delicious smells and laughter were in the air in the small kitchen off the school gymnasium as the three fifth-grade girls vied for the title at the sixth annual Franklin Elementary Cook-Off.

This year’s participants were Adrionnah, pitting her

Mexican-inspired taco salad against Mary Taylor with her veggie burrito recipe and Brianna Hartwick’s healthy loaded nachos.

Sponsored by the nonprofit Our FAMILY — Fathers and Mothers Involved in Local Youth — the contest is meant to promote healthy eating choices for students, said Emma Taylor, the group’s executive director.

She called the competition a showcase “of what these talented young people can create in the kitchen.”

The rules of the contest: Use a $20 gift card to buy healthy ingredients and create a healthy Mexican food-inspired dish from a recipe students had to find as part of a graded classroom assignment. Teachers initially chose six recipes as contenders, though only the three girls chose to participate this year.

The girls did the shopping, got some help with the prep work and then put together their meal for six adults and one fifth-grade student. After tasting the creations, the judges rated plate presentation, taste and health factor on a scale of 1 to 5 — a 5 being best.

Brianna, who had never had avocados before, chopped some up and put the pieces atop of her nachos, along with salsa, low-fat cheese and yogurt. The yogurt gave the dish a sweet-and-savory flavor combo.

Adrionnah’s salad had corn and black beans, crunchy chip strips, low-fat sour cream and lettuce, topped with taco meat, low-fat cheese and low-fat sour cream. It, too, was sweet and savory and light but flavorful.

Mary’s veggie burrito contained ground-up Boca burgers — a vegan patty made from soy protein and wheat gluten — low-fat cheese, chopped carrots, peppers and broccoli inside a whole wheat tortilla. Most of the judges said they had never had Boca burger “meat” before, with a consistency they compared to refried beans.

As the winner, Adrionnah was presented with a second gift card for her and her family, which she was encouraged to use to create new dishes for them. Past challenges have included healthy versions of sandwiches, comfort food and Asian cuisine.

Taylor said Our FAMILY, which she and her husband, Bobby Ray Taylor Sr., founded 23 years ago to mentor children in recreational, cultural, spiritual and educational ways, sponsors the “Funology” STEM lab at both Franklin Elementary and Southview Middle schools in Lorain, the “Breakfast Buddies” homework club and a summer trip to Florida for 10 students chosen by Franklin Elementary School teachers.

To qualify for the Florida trip, the students must raise the funds for the trip themselves through completing educational challenges, learning responsibility including safety on the internet and completing a walkathon. Other donors give to the cost of the flight to Florida or to the timeshare in the Orlando area where the children stay, Taylor said.

More information on the nonprofit can be found at ourfamilyohio.org.

“We try to set a good example for them,” Taylor said.

Contact Dave O’Brien at (440) 329-7129 or do’brien@chroniclet.com. Follow him at @daveobrienCT on Twitter.


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