Janesville Craig students learn healthy cooking

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Nick Crow
Saturday, May 31, 2014

JANESVILLE—Craig High School junior Brooke Rinaldi had a simple idea.

Her family made the dish when no one was in the mood to cook.

"It's a family recipe of mine," Rinaldi said. "It's potatoes, some cheese, broccoli and cauliflower. That's about it."

After slightly changing the recipe by removing meat and using a different type of cheese, it was ready.

American Kitchen, a team comprising four Craig students, entered the side dish called Smothered With Cheese in the Whipping Up Wellness: Wisconsin Student Chef Competition held May 15 at UW-Madison.

It was chosen one of the top five dishes in the state.

The final teams were among 140 entries statewide. Each team included three to five students in grades 6 through 12.

Although the Craig team wasn't selected the winner, the students said they were still proud to be in the finals.

"I still think it is a pretty good accomplishment that it was chosen because of how many entered," Rinaldi said.

The students were asked to develop and prepare a nutritious, student-friendly dish that included local foods, Wisconsin dairy products that could be easily incorporated into the school food service program and foods used at home.

"It had to be low in sodium and fat," said Denise Wimann, supervising teacher at Craig. "I'm very proud. They represented Craig and Janesville well."

The recipes had to contain less than 35 percent of calories from fat, less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat and fewer than 600 milligrams of sodium.

"We thought we did a good job of making something that was easy, quick and healthy," junior Alex Nielsen said.

Five teams designed dishes for the competition in Wimann's class, she said. Each school could only have one finalist. Smothered With Cheese was chosen.

The class started its projects in February and submitted entries in March. Students found out in April who had been chosen to compete.

"The original recipe called for a serving of eight; then we had to tailor it to 50," junior Dylan Ristow said. "We had to serve it to students to see what they said before the competition, and most of them liked it."

Ristow, who plans to attend Blackhawk Technical College next fall to study culinary arts, said he dreams of one day opening a restaurant.

"This was a good experience to have to cook on a certain deadline," he said.

Teams had to present each dish, and each was evaluated on creation and shared student taste-test results.

Junior Brittnie Domenosky likened the experience to an episode of the TV series "Chopped."

"It was scary," she said. "We went in this big kitchen, and all worked at the same time."

The final was held at UW-Madison. Judges used these criteria to determine winners: taste, use of flavor, variety of textures, serving temperature, appearance and presentation, color and plate appeal, originality, creativity and student appeal.

"It was very nerve-wracking to cook in front of them (the judges)," Rinaldi said.

The Craig students were awarded an apron, a Target gift card and a banner to be hung in the school cafeteria.

The final five entries will become part of a student chef cookbook published by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

"It was a good experience for them," Wimann said. "I think they enjoyed it and had fun being on the UW campus."

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