David Starr Jordan Middle School and California Pizza Kitchen recently partnered to present the Jordan CPKulinary Challenge on Friday, April 17. For the third year in a row, students and staff formed teams to compete in a Top Chef-style cooking competition. Dishes had to include the secret ingredient of legumes, so many teams created vegan and meatless plates.
“The CPKulinary Challenge allows students to combine creativity, teamwork, presentation skills, budgeting and problem-solving in a friendly but competitive learning environment,” commented Jordan Principal Stacy Cashman. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for our students, staff, parents and community to come together to celebrate student work in the culinary arts.”
Eight teams participated in the Challenge. Each team was made up of one adult Jordan staff member and three students. Finished plates were presented to the panel of judges, which included Carol Flynn and Chef Kong from California Pizza Kitchen, Burbank City Council Member Emily Gabel-Luddy and myBurbank Chief Photographer Ross Benson.
“This year, students created extremely healthy but delicious food – dishes like vegan sliders and bean salad showed that it’s easy to make food that tastes good and is good for you,” added Cashman.
Other concoctions includes fish, pasta and milkshakes with soy. Garbanzo beans in chocolate cake and cookies was surprisingly delicious, according to Cashman.
“I wanted the students to research the foods considered a legume… especially when I introduced the secret ingredient and many of them said “WHAT is that?” said Jordan Culinary Arts teacher Doreen Wydra. “Examples of the some of the interesting uses of legumes: some of the kitchens used black bean chips; one kitchen simply served the chips with their hummus; another kitchen rolled their sweet potato fries in crushed bean chips then baked the fries.”
“Since one of the judges was allergic to nuts, one kitchen used crushed dried garbanzo beans as an ingredient in their pesto (instead of pine nuts),” continued Wydra. “Some students wanted to use foods from their culture… so this competition allowed for the use of lentils which was the main ingredient for the stuffed Swiss chard.”
“Most surprising was the use of tofu as the main ingredient. The kitchen members made a fabulous Thai sauce,” she said. “The students and staff members who were sampling the tofu dish, I would say, probably had never tried tofu before.”
“We appreciate the partnership with CPK and the positive impact they have had on Jordan students,” Cashman also said. “Carol Flynn and Chef Kong have been incredible partners from CPK and our guest judges, City Council Member Emily Gabel-Luddy and Ross Benson (also a former Jordan alumnus), were very encouraging of our students about their dishes.”
“I was really impressed by the cooks, making real healthy items such as falafel and hummus, brownies made from black beans and sweetened with apple sauce,” commented Benson. “I asked a couple of kids would they cook this at home – they said YES.”
“One team even made sliders from beans, another team made ahi tuna that was to die for… even a shake made from beans,” Benson continued. “All the food was delicious!”
“When the first team served their dishes, I knew we were in for some of the most imaginative and delicious food yet to be prepared by our community’s kids at Jordan,” said Gabel-Luddy. “Wow! What turned hamburgers and shakes on their heads was the winning team ‘Grannie and the Girls’ who prepared black bean burgers and soy chocolate shakes.”
“Doreen Wydra is the Top Chef behind the event,” Cashman also said. “She organizes, encourages and sets up the whole competition. Jordan students are lucky to have her as a teacher. She goes above and beyond to provide great opportunities for Jordan students.”
“All of the sous chefs did a wonderful job with their challenge to make their dishes using three legumes and demonstrated healthy and tasty meals,” Gabel-Luddy added. “CPK has sponsored a wonderful annual event and I salute them for engaging our young leaders.”