The Hillsboro Summer Rec program provided a fun cooking adventure in the form of Chopped Junior last week.
“Over the course of the week we had 20 students participate in the camp. It was led by myself and Anne Janzen and Treena Lucero assisted. Anne and I typically teach this as a middle school club each spring, but we have missed the past two years due to COVID. It was so rewarding to get back in the kitchen with kids,” said Tamara Cassidy, a middle school teacher at HMHS.
The first group consisted of students going into 4th and 5th grades, and the second group consisted of students going into 6th, 7th and 8th grades.
According to Cassidy, each day students worked in teams of two or three to create dishes for various judges to taste.
“They had a basket of three or four required ingredients, as well as a pantry of other ingredients they could access. Each day the basket items were a surprise, and no technology could be used to come up with ideas or recipes. No Google, no YouTube and no Pinterest. Every idea came from their creative minds,” said Cassidy.
Throughout the week the group focus focused on skills. Students were taught basic knife skills and food safety rules each day of the camp.
Each child had the opportunity to work with foods they might not normally have access to, and so many of them bravely tried new foods. A few of the required ingredients throughout the week included mushrooms, avocado, pizza dough, canned chickpeas, apples, fresh mozzarella cheese and a pineapple.
Each day the student chefs were judged on creativity, taste and presentation.
“We also had 12 adults from USD 410 and the Hillsboro community serve as judges. Darren Frantz served on the day we required Dale’s Famous Sausage, and Mr. Heinrichs, Mr. Yoder and Mr. Corby sampled many varieties of pizza, calzones, and breadsticks. Mrs. Linnens and Mrs. Faul, first-grade royalty in USD 410, came to enjoy their former students’ twists on Mexican dishes,” said Cassidy.
The camp seemed to be a huge success and everyone, from the judges to the organizers to the participants, had a great time.
“I am sincerely so proud of each and every chef from the camp. We always think we know what students will make, and were surprised every day. We tasted mini taco meatloaves, stacked Mexican pizzas, perfect potato salad, a sweet cinnamon sugar hummus and an amazing pineapple sausage bacon dish,” said Cassidy. “These kids cut the pineapple, shredded the cheese, crumbled the sausage, and melted the chocolate. We supervised and gave advice, but they did all of the work and deserve all of the recognition. Mrs. Janzen and I are both looking forward to cooking with the middle school students in the spring and we will definitely offer the camp again next summer.”