An East Baton Rouge Parish 4-H member proudly displays his dish.
The energy was palpable at the Alexandria Evacuation Megashelter on April 19 for the inaugural Louisiana 4-H Food Challenge. Thirty-nine teams from 17 parishes traveled from around the state to showcase their cooking skills and prove themselves champions.
Teams were sorted into three divisions: Division I included fourth through sixth graders, Division II was seventh through eighth, and Division III was ninth through 12th. Each team used Louisiana shrimp donated by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board to bring their ideas to the table. Teams had 40 minutes to purchase items from the limited pantry, cook their dish, calculate the total cost per serving and prepare a five-minute presentation for a panel of judges.
The teams took on the challenge and created dishes including shrimp cakes, pasta, po-boys and more. As part of the presentation to the judges, the youth shared the nutritional value of their dishes and how each could support a healthy lifestyle. Shrimp, for example, are an excellent source of protein, and this contest showcased the agricultural products that Louisiana has to offer. Through the event, the 4-H students strengthened their cooking, presentation, stress management and teamwork skills.
“If I win or lose it [doesn’t] matter because being here is a win for me,” an East Carroll Parish participant shared.
On Oct. 4, the Division III winning team progressed to the National Food Challenge Contest at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas, Texas. The Winn Parish team was comprised of Chloe Whisonant, Gracelyn Chevallier and Lauren Poole. Even though the high school seniors had only been cooking together for one year, they earned the title of Reserve Grand Champion.
The team competed in a preliminary round that challenged them to use cannellini beans as their secret ingredient. They added quinoa, tomatoes and mushrooms and served it in a zucchini boat to advance to the final round.
The secret ingredient for the final round was mushrooms. The Louisiana team added green apples, pears, couscous and a Dijon vinaigrette to earn the second-place national prize.
“This is perfect for any students with a love for the culinary arts,” Whisonant said. “A great way to find other kids with the same interests.”
Chevallier was thrilled calling this a “once in a lifetime experience.”
The success of the inaugural Louisiana 4-H Food Challenge bodes well for the future of the contest and the future of the 4-H Healthy Living program.
A final dish is garnished by a 4-H participant and ready for their presentation.
A Grant Parish team prepares their dish and presentation.
Final dishes are prepared.
The Madison Parish team is hard at work cooking a shrimp dish.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture