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The Fifth-Grade ‘Future Chef’: A Grade-Schooler’s Comfort Food Gets Her Closer to National Cookoff

March 16, 2017

Talking Points

Student cooks sizzle at @OconeeSC_school Future Chef competition

“Nana’s Comfort Bowl” takes the cake at South Carolina district’s Future Chef contest

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This article is one in a series at The 74 that profiles the heroes, victories, success stories, and random acts of kindness to be found at schools all across America. Read more of our recent inspiring profiles at The74million.org/series/inspiring.

The clock ticking in the background didn’t faze 10 Oconee County elementary school students as they diced potatoes, carved vegetables, and crafted healthy dishes as part of the South Carolina district’s annual Future Chef competition

There were sweet potato pancakes, Philly cheesesteak zucchini boats, bean dip, Mexican macaroni pizza, and Leila’s vegetable delight.



But when the final tastings were licked clean, “Nana’s Comfort Bowl,” created by Blue Ridge Elementary School fifth-grader Anais Puffer, was deemed to be a cut above.

Winning was “amazing,” she told the Independent Mail newspaper — which is exactly how the judges felt about her winning entry, a bread bowl filled with ground turkey, onions, garlic, and other savory ingredients.

This is the sixth year the district has embraced the competition as a way to give kids a taste of the opportunities outside the academic world, Superintendent Michael Thorsland told the newspaper. Students had to devise their own recipes and then, assisted by a school staff member, prepare their dishes in just one hour.



The judges — a high school student, a county sheriff’s deputy, an executive chef, and two dietitians from Oconee Memorial Hospital — took into account the healthy aspect of each dish, as well as creativity and taste.

“Really what we are trying to do is get kids involved in the kitchen and get kids involved in making healthy choices,” Scott Hood of Sodexo Food Service, which sponsored the event, told television station WYFF.

This was the second win for Anais, who told the newspaper she wants to be a chef one day. Not only did she get a huge trophy, but she will now get to cook in a regional context for a chance to participate in the national Future Chef competition.

And, after proving that healthy can pack plenty of taste, her “Nana’s Comfort Bowl” will be featured on the menu at Oconee County schools next year.

Victory sure is sweet.