Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Students create their own recipes for school cookoff contest

The chefs at Blake High School weren't typical cooks. One wore red Converse sneakers. Another had to stand on a milk crate to reach the counter.

The five student chefs were finalists in the Hillsborough school nutrition services Cook It Up cookoff. They all whipped up an original recipe Thursday night for a panel of judges that included local culinary professionals and Wharton High School culinary students.

Madison Gentry, 12, a seventh-grader at Barrington Middle School, took home the top prize: two tickets to the Justin Bieber concert in Orlando on Friday. She created a dish called All Around the World with ingredients that included teriyaki chicken, Spanish rice, okra and mozzarella cheese.

"I thought I should go beyond the expectations and put more food groups in it than they wanted," she said.

She was inspired by the Justin Bieber song All Around the World. She entered for the chance to see her favorite singer in concert, she said, but she also takes a culinary class at school.

"I like to see how the kitchens are so different between the middle schools and the high schools," she said. "I didn't know how to cut things certain ways, but now I do."

The other finalists were Nalonna Graybeal, 11, Mintz Elementary; Amber Buchanan, 13, Rampello Downtown Partnership School; Arianna White, 14, Memorial Middle School; and Kayla Sieper, 11, Bryant Elementary. They submitted original recipes with an essay explaining why their entry was nutritious. They were selected from about 100 entries districtwide.

For the contest's second year, Mary Kate Harrison, general manager of student nutrition, wanted to make it an event. Last year, students were judged only on their submitted recipe and essay. This year, the finalists cooked their meals with the help of a sous chef from their school in the Blake High kitchen. Cameras broadcast them on a big screen to their friends and family in the cafeteria, creating a mini cooking show.

"We want to show them they can have meals that are flavorful and affordable," Harrison said.

The finalists' meals will be featured in their schools. Gentry's will be featured districtwide. She will also appear at Radio Disney's studio on the Kid's Concern Show, and her school will receive a lunch party hosted by Radio Disney.

The judges included Mike Beadles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers executive chef; Brian Ford, the Bucs' vice president of business administration; Jason Dame, chef at Datz in Tampa; Isabel Laessig, founder of the Family Foodie blog; and Michele Northrup, founder of Intensity Academy Gourmet Sauces.

Beadles said he was looking for creativity and diversity in the entries, and "what I think my kids would eat and enjoy," he said.

"I just love to see the creations young minds are going to come up with," Northrup said. "Many students feel they're told what they can do." But teaching them how to cook gives them a sense of independence, she said.

That's what Sieper liked about the contest. She was nervous because it was her first time cooking, but liked putting her healthy spin on meatball soup.

It was Graybeal's first time cooking, too. She liked learning how to work as a team with her sous chef. "It went great," she said. "We actually got done in the time we needed to."

Buchanan and White used spinach in their recipes. "At first I didn't really like spinach, but then I decided to try it," Buchanan said.

Cooking is White's favorite hobby. She likes to cook for her family, and is excited to try new recipes such as sushi. "It's fun, it's active," she said. "When they eat it, people's faces light up."

Keeley Sheehan may be reached at

Students create their own recipes for school cookoff contest 01/19/13 [Last modified: Friday, January 18, 2013 5:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tarpon Springs man killed after three cars hit him on U.S. 19 in Holiday


    A Tarpon Springs man was killed Wednesday night in Holiday after he was struck by three cars as he attempted to cross U.S. 19, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  2. Siesta Beach tops Dr. Beach's rankings of best locations in America


    Three beaches in Florida made it on a highly coveted list of the top 10 in America this year, ranked by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a.k.a. "Dr. Beach."

    This May 18, 2017 photo shows Siesta Beach on Siesta Key in Sarasota, Fla. Siesta Beach is No. 1 on the list of best beaches for the summer of 2017 compiled by Stephen Leatherman, also known as Dr. Beach, a professor at Florida International University. [Chris O'Meara | Associated Press]
  3. Tattooed 'Joker' accused of pointing gun at Miami traffic

    Bizarre News

    MIAMI — Police in Miami-Dade County have managed to arrest the Joker without Batman's help following reports of a green-haired man with tattoos on his face pointing a gun at traffic.

    This photo provided by the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department shows Lawrence Sullivan, who was arrested in Miami-Dade County, Fla., on Tuesday, May 23, 2017, and charged with carrying a concealed firearm. Police say the self-described "tattoo model" was pointing a gun at moving vehicles. [Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department via AP]
  4. Deputies: Two men, teen intentionally set fire, left it to burn within Weedon Island Preserve


    ST. PETERSBURG –– Two men and a teen face charges after deputies say they deliberately started a fire within Weedon Island Preserve last month.

    Adam Grote, 19, left, and Brandon Kholos, 20, along with a 17-year-old, face charges after deputies say they intentionally started a fire on April 15, 2017, that burned about six acres on Googe Island within Weedon Island Preserve in St. Petersburg. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  5. Police chief: Manchester searches turn up valuable info in concert bombing


    MANCHESTER, England — Home searches across Manchester have uncovered important items for the investigation into the concert bombing that left 22 people dead, Manchester's police chief announced Thursday, while other British authorities complained bitterly about information leaks blamed on U.S. officials.

    A police officer at the scene at an address in Nuneaton, England Thursday May 25, 2017 where they arrested a seventh suspect in the investigation into the Manchester Arena bombing. British police have arrested a seventh person in connection with the Manchester Arena bombing. The man was held Wednesday after police carried out searches in the English town of Nuneaton, which is about 161 kilometers (100 miles) south of Manchester. [Joe Giddens | PA via AP]