Small chefs take away big lessons from the kitchen

By Audrey Williams

March 23, 2013 Updated Mar 23, 2013 at 10:37 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill -- Some area students are getting out of the classroom and into the kitchen for the District 150 Future Chefs competition.

Some District 150 third graders spent their Saturday morning at school. They are competing in a nation-wide cooking program sponsored by Sodexo, the schools' food service provider.

This years theme: Healthy salads.

"I made a salad called apple surprise. There's cinnamon, sugar, 9 diced apples and cherries," said Jordan Ingram, explaining his creation.

The seven students made seven different salads.

Organizers said the theme coincides with a nationwide push for healthier eating in schools.

"The big deal here is that fact that they're learning how to eat healthy, how to make foods for themselves, how to prepare those things at home," said Mark Shoopman.

Shoopman has been a chef for 25 years, currently working at Lutheran Hillside Village. Saturday he helped mentor the students for the competition.

"To help them understand where the flavors come from. I'm working on one recipe that uses curry spice, which not a lot of people, even chefs that I work with, are familiar with curry. It's a unique spice, very powerful. So to show this young chef how this went together with curry spice was very neat," he said.

Along with all the slicing, dicing and tossing, the children got a lesson in what they call Food Service Boot camp.

"I learned knife safety. I learned that when you're cooking you always want your hands to be clean and you should wear gloves," said participant Katherine Hancock.

The winner from the cooking competition will go on to a regional contest next month.

No matter the outcome of the judging, Shoopman said all the kids are winners.

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