JOHNNY FLORES JR/Coachella Unincorporated
COACHELLA – The chefs carefully placed a souvlaki pita and a southwest chicken sandwich in front of the three judges, next to their scorecards.
But this is no ordinary cooking competition. This is a Teen Chef battle, part of Coachella Valley High School’s afterschool cooking program in which two teams compete for the coveted Emerald Spoon.
“Southwestern cuisine is a blend of southwestern, Native American and Mexican cuisine,” said student Jaziel Morales, wearing a cowboy hat for presentation points. “Vitamins and minerals come from the mangos, lime, and cheese. Fiber comes from the bread and the lycopene is found in the tomatoes, which helps lower your cholesterol.”
The two teams were judged on teamwork, organization, knife skills, presentation, creativity in presentation, visual presentation, food safety, cleanliness and taste. Judges scored each category on a scale from 1 to 5.
At the end of this session, the Southwest chicken sandwich team was deemed the winner. They enthusiastically accepted the Emerald Spoon from Naomi Soto, the HealthCorps coordinator at Coachella Valley High School (CVHS) who oversees this program.
“I love food and teaching with other people has given me a different perspective on food. I have learned new ideas, how to respect other cultures, and how to experience different palettes,” said Soto.
This weekly program is part of the HealthCorps initiative at Coachella Valley High School. Created by Dr. Mehmet Oz, the program strives to teach and inspire teens to make healthier choices for not only themselves but for their families as well. The program is in 66 high schools in 14 states. The HealthCorps program at CVHS is funded by The California Endowment.
“This class is fun, easy, and I get to learn about new cultures,” said Isaiah Howze a junior at CVHS. “I’ve learned how to combine the new with the old, how to use less oil, and make everything healthier. I cook a lot more at home and I would definitely do this again next year.”
Soto has also introduced yoga and nutrition classes to the students and staff at CVHS. Earlier this year, staff wore pedometers as part of a walking competition. “We want to incorporate wellness and health at all levels, as well as sustainable change,” she said.
“I think (The California Endowment) chose Coachella Valley High School to be apart of this initiative because there is a willingness from the community and school to learn. The community is special…willing to try and take new things on,” Soto added. “I’m really fortunate to be here and be able to experience just that.”
More Teen Chef Battle photos.
More information about HealthCorps.