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School lunches put “Top Chef” contestants to the test

2 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

First lady Michelle Obama has rallied support from chefs and food companies across the U.S. with the “Let’s Move” campaign, inspiring youngsters to fuel their bodies with nutritious foods, to add to physical activity to their days and to change the current trend of childhood obesity within a generation. White House assistant chef Sam Kass took the message to Alice Deal Middle School in Washington, D.C., where this week’s episode of “Top Chef: D.C.” allowed the contestants to play their part.

The major hurdles of this week’s Elimination Challenge: understanding what kids like to eat, actually sneaking in the fruits and veggies, and oh, the $2.60 budget per child.

What children want: Keep it colorful and use age-appropriate flavors (thumbs-down on the use of sherry and hot chili pepper). One successful team of chefs created black bean cakes with crispy sweet potatoes, braised pork carnitas topped with pickled onions and a roasted corn salad.

Easy substitutions: Another top meal included a picnic coleslaw that had more yogurt than mayo, a barbecue sauce on skinless grilled and roasted chicken used apple cider instead of sugar, and the mac ‘n cheese had a whole-wheat crust, skim milk and low-fat cheese.

Watch the budget and the calorie count: One chef ended up adding about 2 pounds of sugar to a dessert that fell short because her team didn’t have enough money to buy more ingredients. “That’s what happens when … we don’t use good ingredients, you add a lot of sugar or fat to make them taste better,” says Kass.

What healthy dish would you serve to middle school students? Leave a comment.

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RedHelga, via iStock