Area students learn technique and more during cooking competition

BEDFORD – On your mark! Get set! Cook!

Local elementary school students had the opportunity to go spatula to spatula in the kitchens of the Omni Bedford Springs Resort as part of a Mini Iron Chef competition held in March.

This was the third year for the competition, Adrian Gonzalez, the resort’s director of operations, said in an email.

“The local school district has really embraced this program, and the teachers take the selection process very seriously,” he said. “The participating students are selected based on their creativity, grades, personalities and most importantly, real interest in the culinary arts.”

When Gonzalez came to the resort in 2010, the resort invited the local school district to participate in the program that was successful in other communities, he said.

“After many conversations with the Bedford Area School District superintendent, they understood the value of this fun but educational program,” he said. “After all, cooking in a commercial kitchen with professional chefs is not something you can do every day, not at that age anyway.”

Four teams of five competed – Lightning Chefs, who won the competition; Crazy Cookies, Super Steaks and The Bouncing Bacon.

“As well as building an awareness to the different career options, they also learned the importance of teamwork, communication skills and creativity,” JoAnne Bortz, Bedford Elementary School guidance counselor, said in an email.

Bortz got many different responses when she asked students what they learned, including listening skills and respect for other’s ideas, she said.

“I like how you get to make different things each time you try something new,” said Wyatt Davis, who is in fourth grade, of what he likes about cooking. He learned that working as a team helps accomplish a goal faster, he said.

Madison Nail, 11, who wants to work as a chef some day, said she enjoyed the “science aspect of cooking.”

The event also helps the resort learn what type of foods kids like.

“Kid’s menus have always been a big challenge for the hospitality industry, with parents asking for healthy foods, while kids want something tasty and fun,” Gonzalez said. “What better way to design kid’s menus than having kids telling us what they want, by ‘cooking’ their own food based on a secret basket with a combination of fun and healthy ingredients?”

Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.