May the Odds Be Ever in Your Flavor

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This month I had the pleasure of being a part of the first annual Sliced Leamington contest, a culinary competition designed for kids from grades 6-12. The two part contest began with kids submitting a two minute video of them creating their favorite tomato recipe. Videos were judged on creativity, presentation, kitchen skills, and pizzazz.

I had the lucky job of being able to view all of the video submissions and let me tell you, they were impressive! We had kids showcasing recipes that ranged from classic bruschetta to gazpacho, roasted tomato alfredo to tomato basil ice cream. Seriously, half the recipes even had me questioning if I could make it myself!

We then had the very tough job of narrowing it down to four finalists from the grade 6-8 and grade 9-12 age groups to participate in a live cook-off at the Leamington SUNSET® Tomato Festival, which was hosted and judged by celebrity chef Roger Mooking! The finalists were thrilled to be selected and when they showed up at the event in their aprons, chefs hats, and Sliced t-shirts, they could hardly contain their nervous excitement. The kids each had their own kitchen workstation full of kitchen supplies and full access to any ingredient found in the fridge and pantry. The tough part – their dish had to include four ingredients from their mystery basket that would not be revealed until seconds before the contest began.

If I was impressed by the video submissions, words can’t even describe how blown away I was at the results of the live cook-off. With the pressure of not knowing the mystery ingredients and only thirty minutes on the clock, these kids were cool as cucumbers as they sliced, diced, and cooked up their entrées. And each entrée was unique and different from each other, ranging from breakfast scrambles, to stuffed pork chops, to stir-fries and meat patties. At the end of the thirty minutes, each finalist had to present their dish to a panel of four judges, including Roger Mooking, who taste tested and scored their dish based on uniqueness, presentation and of course, flavor.

Once each dish was judged, the panel collaborated to select the grand prize winner. A HUGE congratulations to Matteo Mejalli from the grade 6-8 age group, who won $500 for his beef patties and herbed tomatoes and potatoes, and Noah Mavrantzas, from the grade 9-12 age group who won $2,000 for his cashew crusted pork chop stuffed with peameal bacon and goat cheese.

I’m so proud of all the kids who entered the contest. They are truly an inspiring group of kids who have taught me a thing or two about cooking and keeping composed while doing it!

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Justine Chevalier
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