Richards' student chefs win citywide cook-off

January 25, 2011 5:04:51 AM PST
On the menu for Chicago Public Schools: Afro-Caribe Plancha, Caribbean Crunch Salad and Soup of Sunshine.

Those are the winning recipes from a citywide contest where culinary students created healthy school lunches. They were dished out Monday and are now part of the Chicago Public Schools menu for the high schools.

"I like it. It tasted better than the other food," said Maricela Lagunas, student.

"Usually, I get every day the chicken patty. I like something different. About time," said Maria Murillo, student, who tried the award-winning food instead.

Richards Career Academy students won first place in the annual Cooking Up Change contest, which is sponsored by nonprofit Healthy Schools Campaign.

"The students are challenged to create a school meal-- that means high nutritional standards and works within the budgetary constraints and, most importantly, that their peers will eat it," said Rochelle Davis, Healthy Schools Campaign.

It's a tall order for the students- healthy, cheap and tasty.

"At first we didn't really think we were up to the challenge, but we just got out there and did our thing-- and here we are," said Claudia Ramirez, contest winner.

Ramirez and three others went to work and won with a Caribbean Crunch Salad, made with apples, oranges and cucumbers; Soup of Sunshine, which is made with squash, apples, tomatoes, peanut butter and cilantro; and Afro-Caribe Plancha, made of turkey, black beans and provolone cheese. The Plancha used the school's pizza crust.

"The pizza crust at school, students just don't like. We used different cooking method to bring out flavor, made it tasteful. When we gave students to try, they didn't realize it was pizza crust," said Ramirez.

Later this spring, the Richards Career Academy students will compete in Washington D.C. for the national title. "It shows you can really do well no matter what school you come from," said Hector Ramirez, student.

The Richards' students competed with more than 100 students.