For the fourth consecutive year, Sodexho, the Naperville School District 203 food service provider, offered elementary students a chance to compete in a Future Chefs Challenge.
This year’s competition involved creating a healthy sandwich. Forty-four District 203 elementary students accepted the challenge and submitted recipes. Twenty finalists were selected and were asked to prepare and present their sandwich creations for judges March 6 at Ranch View Elementary School.
Natalia Slagado won the originality award for her “Crunchy Ceviche Sandwich. Zoe Day took the health-conscious prize for “Zoe’s Tuna Wrap,” while Moira Friant was given the kid-friendly preparation award for her “Pizza Wrap.”
Dough Deutsch was recognized with the fun-kid prize for his “Unsloppy Joe,” and Joseph Thachet took home the best plate presentation for his “T.A.P. Sandwich.”
But it was Jacob Baker who was the overall winner with his “Crispy Asian Wrap.”
Eleven-year-old Jacob came up with the idea for the sandwich after eating a Chinese chicken stir-fry that his mother made for dinner one night.
“It tasted good with ginger, chicken and broccoli in it,” he explains. “I wanted to try to get those flavors of that stir fry in my sandwich.”
Instead of using bread, Jacob says he decided to use a tortilla because, “using a tortilla gave me extra points because it was healthier. I like using the tortilla because it has a different flavor than bread.”
To add some crunch to the creation, Jacob decided to add some chow mien noodles. At first, he mixed all of the ingredients together in a bowl, added the dressing and then placed the mixture into the tortilla.
“But the chow mien noodles got too soggy and weren’t as crunchy,” he says.
He fixed the problem by mixing all of the ingredients with the dressing, loading it onto the tortilla and then sprinkling on the noodles before rolling everything together.
This contest was not Jacob’s first venture into the kitchen. He often helps his mom by preparing ingredients for dinner.
“He’s my sous chef,” says his mother, Mary Baker. “He loves to do all of the chopping.”
Jacob also enjoys baking and is the family birthday cake maker. He finds inspiration on Food Network shows and names Bobby Flay as his favorite chef.
During a trip to his dad’s Chicago office, Jacob met an executive chef named Aaron who prepares meals in an executive dining room at the building.
“He gets to make different things every day and cooks for important people. I would like to be like him someday,” Jacob says.
In addition to his interest in cooking, Jacob plays the trumpet and is active on baseball, basketball and soccer teams.
He won a large basket filled with cooking utensils, a step counter that calculates calories burned and a chef’s outfit for his entry. He is now eligible to advance to the regional level contest with students from other school districts.
“I think the contest is fun to do,” Jacob says. “It really encourages kids to cook and eat healthy foods which is good.”
Jacob shares his winning recipe and another one of his simple favorites.