Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Recipe for Success Competition Teams Up Chefs, Students to Cook Up Better School Lunches

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Recipe for Success Competition Teams Up Chefs, Students to Cook Up Better School Lunches

Article excerpt

Chicken sizzling, 10 minutes to go. Latex-covered fingers loading pizzas, cheddar biscuits out of the oven, 5 minutes. Rice molds on plates, stir fry steaming.

When prompted, a gathering crowd at Smallman Galley in the Strip counted down - 10, 9, 8 ... (fruit salads plated) .... 7, 6, 5 .... (pizza sliced) .... 4, 3, 2 - and cheered as Project Lunch Tray sent the first team of students hurrying plates out to three judges.

"Station two on deck!" Emily Voelker, education and outreach coordinator at Community Kitchen Pittsburgh, called out.

Sixteen teams, four at a time, competed in Community Kitchen's annual event Saturday. Students were teamed with chefs in a fun, frenetic day of rethinking school lunches. Winners will be announced March 25 at an event at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Both events are sponsored by PNC Bank.

Project Lunch Tray is an education outreach of Community Kitchen to expose youth to kitchens, chefs, a public audience and nutritious ingredients in recipes that could become school lunches.

"We get chefs and kids to come up with a school lunch that puts a spin on what is possible," said Jennifer Flanagan, executive director of Community Kitchen Pittsburgh. The non-profit is a culinary arts training ground for adults who have employment barriers, including past incarceration. Community Kitchen provides meals under contract to schools and organizations that serve the needy and also caters events.

James Wright, a Community Kitchen chef, worked with students from Pace School of Churchill in round one at station one, where 12-year-old Jeremiah Fielder deftly carved fat from chicken breasts.

"We had four classes together" in preparation, Mr. Wright said. "They are ready and focused, fantastic kids."

Karen Shepherd, Pace's CEO, said Project Lunch Tray "was the first non-school event our kids have ever had" in 50 years. Pace is a private school that provides behavioral care. "For us to see their attention and focus and for them to see that they can do things is such a reward. …

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