This past weekend, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden announced the winners of the “Green Cuisine” competition. A few weeks ago, I helped judge this contest, which was part of the Fairchild Challenge, an environmentally-based series of creative projects and contests for middle and high school students. The winners of “Green Cuisine” were Miami Central High School and Pembroke Pines Charter High School.
High school students had to convert one fast food menu item into a healthy, eco-friendly, vegetarian meal. The students dished out samples of their meal, passed out nutritional information, and gave a short talk about how their dish was made and how it was better for the environment.
I was most impressed by the schools that grew their own produce. Booker T. Washington High School has an amazing school garden program. The students and teachers have even written The Overtown Cookbook, which takes their families’ favorite recipes and modifies them for both health and flavor. You can download the cookbook for free here. Look for more on The Overtown Cookbook in Miami Dish soon.
Booker T. Washington’s students (Eddie Thomas, Crystal Curry, Brandon Tate, Jerry Clark, Danielle King) were articulate and knowledgeable in their explanations of their school’s program and their dish. While most schools brought food that was already prepared, these students demonstrated how they cooked collard greens during the contest. We gave them a Special Recognition for their project.
Miami Central High School’s students (Alberto Cermeno, Greg Pierre, Deandre Green, Hector Duran) grew the tomatoes, thyme, and basil for their vegetarian “paparoni” pizza with vegan cheese sauce. The “paparoni” was a mixture of sweet potato, oats, chopped pecans, and spices that was deemed both delicious and innovative by the judges who tasted it. The students used all unprocessed ingredients for their recipe.
The judges involved in the contest were mostly chefs and food professionals, with only volunteer involvement in schools, with the exceptions of one other person and me. However, we found out after the judging was over that Miami Central High has a captivating, underdog story of an “F-rated” school scrappily (and very publicly) fighting to improve itself and stay open. You can read about the school’s efforts in The Miami Herald, which was given open access to the school. In addition, Miami Central High principal Douglas Rodriguez spoke on the public radio show, The Story, last week.
Pembroke Pines Charter High School (Zachary Kaplan, Jared Moljo, Jonathan George, Christopher Massana) created “Spaghetti” Squash and Meatless “Meatballs” to replace the pasta meals on Pizza Hut’s menu. The meatballs were a combination of potato flakes, ricotta, onion, along with other ingredients, including, yet again, pecans! The meatballs sure fooled me. I especially enjoyed the full-flavored tomato sauce.
These students were particularly articulate about their nutritional and environmental information. They wrote: “The meat industry has a big impact on our environment because of all of the resources it takes to care and feed the animals, as well as the mistreatment of certain cows…more food can be produced by growing potatoes as opposed to raising cows per pound of fossil fuel.” Try their recipe here.
There were many other schools whose projects were notable in some way. We gave them honorable mentions:
CARROLLTON SCHOOL OF THE SACRED HEART: Michelle Loret de Mola (Risotto-style quinoa)
HIALEAH-MIAMI LAKES SENIOR HIGH: Haydee Borrero (Pizza with herbed, whole-wheat crust)
MIAMI COUNTRY DAY SCHOOL: Michaela Hori (Black bean burger)
MIAMI KILLIAN SENIOR HIGH: Laura Vasquez, Samantha Joseph, Naeemah Mckenzie (Veggie burger)
MIAMI PALMETTO SENIOR HIGH: Brett Hallen, Samantha Parrish (Vegan spring rolls and dipping sauce)
OUR LADY OF LOURDES ACADEMY: Stephanie Padron, Tiffany Ojea (Summer rolls with sweet chili dipping sauce)
ROBERT MORGAN EDUCATIONAL CENTER: Drita Dokic, Nicole Feliciano (Tofu Sliders with Portobello Mushrooms and Thai Green Curry)
SOUTH PLANTATION HIGH: Sigal Shemesh, Samantha Khandakji, Brittany Heffner, Laura Carlton (Tempeh-ting wrap)