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Future chefs demonstrated that kids can cook in a competition held March 15 at Wauwatosa West High School.

The event consisted of fourth- and fifth-grade students from Wauwatosa cooking their preferred healthy comfort food recipes as a part of the 2017 Sodexo Future Chefs Challenge.

Sophia Kirklewski from Washington Elementary won the event by producing potato breakfast burgers. Second place belonged to Abbigail Schell from Jefferson Elementary, cooking black bean - corn wonton cups. In third was Mateo Canales from Roosevelt Elementary with healthy mac &cheese. All three are in the fifth grade.

Kirklewski's winning recipe included potatoes, eggs, whole-grain bread, lean ground beef, mushrooms and seasonings.

"When I grow up I want to be a chef or a baker," Abbigail said. "I've been watching a lot of shows with people baking and cooking."

Schell's mother Kristina Schell said Abbigail chose her own recipe and then tweaked it a bit to better conform to the parameters of the competition by adding fresh tomatoes.

"I found my healthy snack recipe book and this one caught my eye," Abbigail said. "Mom helped me the first time and we made it for the whole family."

The other three competitors were fifth-grader Ava Parikh (spicy chicken strips), fourth-grader Shannon Fox (turkey tortillas called "The Twist") and fifth-grader Isabella Jackson (turkey chili).

This was the fourth time Sodexo brought the seven-year old culinary challenge to Wauwatosa. Sodexo General Manager Joe Maiorelle said Sodexo put together this competition to get students thinking about making healthy food choices while also encouraging them to be active and creative in the kitchen.

Over 20 fourth- and fifth-grade students from various Wauwatosa elementary schools submitted recipes for consideration and the six best recipes were selected to participate in the districtwide finals event. The finalists prepared and presented their creations and were assessed by judges on criteria including originality, taste, ease of presentation, kid friendliness and use of healthy ingredients.

The judges were Maiorelle, Sodexo executive chef Paul Gatta and Sodexo administrative assistant Cathy Ostrowski.

“According to the American Heart Association, about one in every three American kids and teens is overweight or obese,” CEO of Sodexo North America Stephen Dunmore said. “This staggering statistic demonstrates why it is more important than ever to engage youth to become advocates for their own health.”

Kirklewski will now be considered for the regional finalist awards and will send her recipe to a Sodexo kitchen in Texas where it will be produced in May for evaluation. If her recipe is chosen to represent the mid-west region she will advance and compete as one of five national finalists vying for the public’s vote on SodexoUSA.com.

Wauwatosa fourth- and fifth-graders are among participants from 256 school districts across the country holding Future Chefs events throughout February and March.

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