On June 16, eleven New York high school students from Brooklyn Lab School, Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School and the George Washington Education Campus faced off in “Teen Battle Chef LIVE in Harlem,” an annual cooking competition celebrating achievements of students who participate in the Teen Battle Chef (TBC) program held this year at Madiba Harlem.
Over 200 students, parents and members of the community cheered on two teams of students – ranging in age from 14 to 19 – as they worked against the clock to prepare a healthy meal of their choice for a panel of celebrity judges. The competition was the culmination of the semester-long TBC cooking course aimed at preventing obesity and diabetes in the city’s youth by teaching how to cook with fresh ingredients for better health. The program was created in 2003 by FamilyCook Productions and is active in over 100 high schools across the US.
“EmblemHealth is proud to support the Teen Battle Chef program and shares the program’s commitment to help our young New Yorkers achieve a healthier lifestyle one small step at a time through culinary and nutrition education,”
said Michelle Paige, EmblemHealth’s Director of Community Relations.
“By teaching teens to cook food that is healthy and delicious, we can help address the type 2 diabetes and childhood obesity epidemics in our city.”
After meal preparation, the finalists described the cultural background and nutritional value of their recipe. Team Japan – aka “The Noodle Squad”– made a Japanese Udon Noodle Stir Fry with shrimp, broccoli, carrots, and other healthy vegetables. Team Brazil – aka “The Uptown Dreamers” – prepared a Brazilian Stew featuring chorizo sausage, sweet potato, black beans, and the surprising addition of mango.
Celebrity judges included Leah Abraham, Co-owner and Chef at Settepani Restaurant; Richard Grausman, Founder and Chairman of C-CAP; Dan Jackson, Executive Chef of Café 2 and Terrace 5, MoMA; and Craig Samuel, Owner/Partner of B+C Restaurant Group. Each judge praised the students for their creative cooking, presentation skills and ability to compete under pressure. The neck-and-neck competition ended in a tie, with Team Brazil winning the “Culinary Artistry” category, and Team Japan winning for “Entertaining Cooking Demo.”
“I think this competition is fantastic,”
said Leah Abraham.
“To see kids working with basic ingredients, using local produce, understanding gardening and the role of herbs in cooking, I think makes for better, healthier eating. Some of these young cooks could very well be the next generation of chefs in my restaurant.”
Dan Jackson shared Abraham’s enthusiasm for the young chefs.
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“When I was approached to be a judge, it was a no-brainer. As a chef, I am always looking for great, up-and-coming talent who are excited about the business. I couldn’t be more thrilled to meet young people who already love to cook. Just to see high school students so excited about healthy eating is incredible.”
Lynn Fredericks, Founder of FamilyCook Productions and Executive Producer and Director of “Teen Battle Chef Live,” spoke of the three-year relationship with EmblemHealth that resulted in this event.
“EmblemHealth recognizes how important it is for adolescents to make their own choices and be independent. Working together, we support these students to discover what’s good for you – including nutritious foods and a healthy lifestyle – can also be fun and delicious.”
The event was sponsored by EmblemHealth and The Links, Incorporated, and co-hosted by comedian Chuck Nice and Joel Allette, a Teen Battle Chef alumnus and former contestant on the Food Network’s “Chopped.” A performance by students of the Harlem School of the Arts took place at a reception prior to the program.
Teen Battle Chef is a youth development program that explores cooking, gardening, and food systems while battling obesity and chronic disease. In addition, the students make a real difference in their communities by helping their friends and family make healthier choices. The student contestants are all part of Teen Battle Chef and HealthCorps in their respective high schools.
It was a great evening and an especially inspiring one considering the high rates of obesity and diabetes that have been reported from Harlem to Hollis.