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A Sweet Twist to an Italian Dish Wins Whipping Up Wellness

Monday, June 3, 2019

On May 16, The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Team Nutrition hosted the 7th annual Whipping Up Wellness, Wisconsin Student Chef Competition on the Madison College Campus.

State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor welcomed five school teams to the competition. She observed the entire process, from students’ skills in the kitchen to their presentations in front of the judges. “This competition is not only about winning,” Stanford Taylor said. “It’s about developing skills needed to prepare healthy food.”

Carolyn Stanford Taylor observing students cooking
Carolyn Stanford Taylor observing the Grafton High School team during the competition.

The 2019 competition asked students to use a red or orange vegetable in a student-friendly recipe that could be incorporated into the school food service program and made at home. Seventy-seven teams across the state found creative ways to use tomatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, winter squash, pumpkins, and red bell peppers.

In preparation for the cook-off, teams worked together to perfect their recipe. This included adjusting their recipe to make 50 servings and conducting taste tests with their peers.

The top five teams and their mentors were invited to participate in the cook-off at Madison College. The finalists came from Algoma High School, East High School (Green Bay), Grafton High School, Plymouth High School, and South Park Middle School (Oshkosh).

The high school team from Grafton won the competition, with their sweet potato lasagna rolls. Ava Govek, Dana Lemke, and Kailey Lueck came up with the recipe based on this year’s vegetable requirement, and because, according to Govek, it was easy to make. “It can be replicated in a lunchroom and easier to serve than traditional lasagna,” she said. The team likened the Whipping Up Wellness Competition to being on a Food Network show and appreciated the experience they will have going into next year where they will take an Advanced Foods course.

Algoma team preparing their dish
The Algoma High School Team preparing their chipotle sweet potato burritos.

At the cook-off, students had two hours to make and plate their recipe before presenting their dish to a panel of judges. Teams provided information about the development of their recipe and the results of their taste tests.

Dawson Smith, a team member from Plymouth High School, likes to cook as a hobby and for his family. He said that the team had mostly positive taste test feedback from their school, although “some students thought it was too spicy. The teachers loved it and it sold out quickly,” he said.

Plymouth High School team with their plated food
The Plymouth High School Team waiting to present for the judges.

The student chefs were judged on dish nutritional quality, use of culinary skills, potential recipe use by school food service, presentation, description, and creativity.

Michael Gasper, Director of School Nutrition from the Holmen School District and current president of the School Nutrition Association of Wisconsin, served as a judge for the competition. “I’m impressed with the middle school team,” he said, of the level of difficulty in making a red pepper sauce for their rice. He also noted the care they took working with each other, including one student with special needs. “It’s neat to see,” Gasper said. “How they handle themselves in the kitchen and the life skills they learn.”

Jennifer Turner, the South Park Middle School team mentor and teacher, said that the students came up with the recipe, with a little help on the sauce. “They are in sync,” she said of her students. “There are a lot of different personalities, but they all come together and guide each other.”

Following the competition, a cookbook featuring the cook-off recipes and other qualifying recipes is developed. Copies of the cookbook will be available in September. To view past cookbooks, visit the Whipping Up Wellness webpage.

More than 550 teams have competed in the Whipping Up Wellness Competition since it launched in 2013. The competition was made possible through funding from the USDA Team Nutrition Training Grants.

Did you know Wisconsin School Meals Rock? Learn more about how Wisconsin schools are working to provide all students with nutritious food to fuel their bodies to help them succeed.

Grafton High School Team

Grafton High School Team 

Dana Lemke, Kailey Lueck, and Ava Govek.
Mentor: Brenda Stielow
Recipe: Sweet Potato Lasagna Rolls


Algoma High School Team

Algoma High School Team 

Liberty Ansorge, Garrett Wierichs, and Jacklyn Dean.
Mentor: Erin Ballone 
Recipe: Chipotle Sweet Potato Burrito


East High School Green Bay Team

East High School Team, Green Bay

Jordan Ziegert, Allison Rehberg, (missing from photo: Estrella Diaz).
Mentor: Alisha Krueger
Recipe: Sweet Potato Soup


Plymouth High School Team

Plymouth High School Team 

Matt Johlke, Dawson Smith, and Lily Jirikowic.
Mentor: Gale Litt
Recipe: Pumpkin Burger


South Park Middle School Team Oshkosh

South Park Middle School Team, Oshkosh

Sydney Schoenberger, Alec Berndt, Parker Reinert, Paige Mutsch, and Liberty Klingbeil.
Mentor: Jennifer Turner
Recipe: Pan-Seared Chicken Breast with Roasted Red Pepper Rice