We were thrilled to launch the 2012-13 season of Cooking up Change with our flagship Chicago contest in November, followed a few weeks later with the next competition in Denver!
Denver winning team: Jennifer Esquivel, Janeth Alfaro-Mendoza, Ivan Pasillas-Banuelos, Maria Armendariz and Maria Gonzalez-Garcia, from Bruce Randolph School
Winning meal: Chicken Panini Wrap; Dijon Vinaigrette Coleslaw; Jalapeno-Infused Peach Crumble.
The winning students in Denver were recently honored for their regional win at a luncheon where their dish was served to guests. Next, it will be served in Denver Public Schools, and the team will travel to Washington, D.C. to compete in the Cooking up Change National Finals. We caught up with one of the team members, Jennifer Esquivel from Bruce Randolph School, for a Q&A.
HSC: How did your team create your winning meal?
JE: Our chef mentors Rebecca and Angel [from Johnson and Wales University] brought out a piece of a paper and said, "throw some ideas out there." One of us said, "Why don't we do some kind of sandwich?" We originally thought of doing some kind of panini, but we decided in the end to make it a wrap. We put the spinach, cheese and chicken in a tortilla so you could see all the colors and layers. We wanted something that we would actually want to eat.
HSC: How well did your team work together towards their victory?
JE: We actually all knew each other really well, which helped. We were under pressure, because the contest was timed! So someone would say, "Can you do this for me please?" and we would just do it.
HSC: How did you feel, on the day of the contest?
JE: If my team was here, they would agree, we were really nervous! We were the first team that had to go present the dish [to the judges]. We were running out of time; I don't know how we did it, but we pulled it off.
HSC: What was your experience last week, when presenting your winning dish to the public?
JE: We were really excited. The luncheon was held by LiveWell Colorado at the Sheraton downtown, and about 600 people tried our dish! They loved it. That's what we were going for, something that anyone could enjoy, and something that looks good visually but also tastes really good.
HSC: What were some of your biggest challenges?
JE: The dessert! We tried a bunch of different variations on the recipe. Some said it was too bitter, some said it was too sweet. We thought, "we have to nail it." So we worked until we found a good balance.
HSC: Do you have any advice for next year's team?
JE: I'd tell them to really open up; there's a lot of different things out there in the world that we haven't tried. Or we are too scared to try. Don't be afraid to get out there to make new things. One of my team members wasn't even interested in cooking when we started. She hated it! Now she loves to cook.
HSC: What was one big lesson you learned from working on this project?
JE: Our instructors taught us to really think about what we're buying and what we're eating. Like, don't just pick something out. Look at the label. Think about what you're eating or making for your family. I showed my mom how to read labels, and together we started doing that at home.
A big thanks to Jennifer Esquivel for sharing her story with us, and congratulations again to the winners of Cooking up Change in Denver!