Before she entered a cooking contest, 11-year-old Addison Jones had never heard of quinoa, let alone tasted it.
Now, as one of five elementary school finalists in the Future Chefs: Healthy Salad Challenge, Addison knows more than she ever wanted to about the only whole grain that’s a complete protein. And, she thinks it’s yummy.
“I like it. It’s good. It gets stuck in your teeth sometimes,” she said, “and that’s the fun part.”
Addison’s entry in the culinary contest sponsored by food service giant Sodexo, Tropical Power Packed Salad, is vying for the national title. The video that gets the most votes at youtube.com/user/SodexoFutureChefs will win first place. Voting ends Tuesday.
A fifth-grade student at The Classical Academy Central, Addison is the first Colorado Springs student to make it this far in the annual competition that’s in its third year as a national event.
With assistance from her aunt and mom, Addison created a recipe that starts with quinoa as a base and is loaded with ingredients kids love — strawberries, mango, kiwi, Cutie oranges, raisins and coconut. A dressing of orange juice, lime yogurt and honey adds the right finishing touch.
“I like the fruity taste of it,” she said. “My biggest success before this was banana mush. I also like to make cookies, waffles with add-ins like chocolate chips and strawberries, and scrambled eggs with meat.”
Chopping is Addison’s favorite part of cooking, and her salad lets her test her skills with a knife.
The kid-friendliness of Addison’s salad earned it big brownie points, according to Jeff Coleman, head chef for Sodexo’s meal program in Academy School District 20.
“That’s the idea — something that’s healthy and nutritious and that kids can prepare on their own for an after-school snack or breakfast or dinner,” he said.
The finalists, who also hail from Rhode Island, Illinois, Michigan and Washington, were selected from more than 5,000 entries from students at 940 elementary schools. Addison first competed against 110 other elementary school students within D-20. After winning, she faced students from 27 districts at regionals. Sodexo chefs nominated the entries that advanced to the finals.
For her accomplishments, Addison won a Kindle Fire, a $100 Amazon gift card and a GoPro camera.
Whether or not she takes the national championship, Addison says she’s learned a few things. The first lesson: making a video to demonstrate cooking her dish was hard.
“I kind of forgot what I was supposed to say,” she admits. “And I didn’t like wearing a chef’s hat.”
She’s also learned “God hears prayers,” and “how to be humble.”
“In all the TV shows, when something big happens to a character, they get a big head. I had a taste of the temptation of that,” she said sagely.
The experience has changed Addison’s mind about what she wants to be when she grows up. She was considering being a teacher. Now, “I mostly want to open my own restaurant.”