With their Curry Chicken, stewed plantains and pineapple salad, the student chefs from Chicago Vocational Career Academy beat out 15 other CPS culinary programs for the honor of representing Chicago at this spring’s national Cooking up Change competition
Cooking up Change is a dynamic culinary contest that puts students front and center in the national dialogue about school food. Using limited ingredients and a tight budget, teams of six worked to create a tasty and nutritious lunch that could be replicated in a typical school cafeteria.
“The meal can’t cost more than one dollar,” said David Blackmon, Program Coordinator for the CPS Hospitality and Culinary Arts Cluster. “Students have to follow USDA dietary guidelines, and the preparation can’t require more than 10 steps.”
On Thursday, November 7, the teams presented their meal creations to a panel of judges that included experienced chefs, food industry executives and various other professionals. CVCA came out on top, with Prosser High School finishing second with a fajita beef spinach salad and Roosevelt taking third with their Tandoori chicken and spiced applesauce.
“The students came back beaming,” said CVCA principal Douglas Maclin. “This is our third win in seven years, which is very exciting. It makes other kids take notice and get interested in the program.”
With 160 students, a fully commercial kitchen and a 170-seat café, CVCA has one of the most robust culinary arts programs in the District. This spring, their winning team will go on to the national Cooking up Change competition in Washington, D.C., where they will compete with other local champions from across the country and present their meal to Congress.
Part of the District’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, CPS’s Culinary and Hospitality cluster provides high school students with industry-based instruction that can help them prepare for careers in the hotel or restaurant industry.
“Many of our students go on to study at some of the country’s best culinary schools,” said Blackmon. “And for those who don’t pursue it as a career, participating in Cooking up Change is still valuable, as it gives them some real-world experience and can be an interesting topic for a job interview or college essay.”
Cooking up Change is the project of Healthy Schools Campaign – the Chicago-based nonprofit that is a leading voice on healthy school environments. The contest is sponsored by Airmark, the official school nutrition partner for CPS.