Local Chef Competes in Obama’s LET’S MOVE Campaign

Liz Rueven

CRUSTLESS QUINOA AND KALE QUICHE was served and critiqued in elementary school? 

That is precisely what happened last month as 200 fourth and fifth graders at Holland Hill Elementary School in Fairfield tasted the dish they had voted to “try” in response to First Lady Michelle Obama’s LET’S MOVE! campaign to combat childhood obesity.  Green Gourmet to Go chef and owner, Linda Soper-Kolton jumped on the opportunity to participate in the nation wide contest to create a tasty, highly nutritious, child friendly dish by approaching her own son’s elementary school Principle, Frank Arnone.  Lucky for the students and the chef, Mr. Arnone loved the idea of involving his students in the process of discussing ingredients and tasting the contest entry.

The LET’S MOVE! campaign has encouraged chefs across the U.S. to register to participate in a contest to develop a recipe that would be palatable and add high nutritional value to the offerings in American school cafeterias.  Over 70 chefs in CT have registered to participate, although not all of them were as successful as Soper-Kolton in engaging their own community to partake.  The contest rules stipulated that a chef, an elementary aged pupil,  a member of the cafeteria staff and the school nutritionist all needed to participate in the process of creating and analysing a recipe.   In this case, the team created two recipes in the three categories that had been given.  The categories were whole grains, dark green and orange veggies, or dry beans and peas.  Soper-Kolton modified her cafe’s recipe for CRUSTLESS QUICHE WITH QUINOA AND KALE (recipe below) and developed a second recipe for THREE BEAN CHILE with butternut squash.  With written questionnaires and classroom discussions, the fourth and fifth grade teachers explained MRS. OBAMA’S nation wide campaign and how Holland Hill Elementary students would participate.  The students voted on which dish they would prefer to taste in the cafeteria on December 22.  According to Chef Soper-Kolton, the kids chose the quiche by an overwhelming majority. “I give them a lot of credit for being willing to try something with such unfamiliar ingredients,” she said proudly.

The young tasters were thoughtful and sometimes tentative as they  were questioned by their enthusiastic Principal, Frank Arnone.  They dipped their forks into bite size samples of the creamy, green-flecked quiche after having examined raw heads of calcium rich, dark, leafy kale.  They had discussed the texture and unusual nutritional value of quinoa, a seed that contains protein similar to more familiar sources like meat and chicken.The comparisons to broccoli and rice were inevitable.  When asked for “describing words” to comment on the taste ,  the responses ranged from, “just o.k” to “amazing.”  The Principle prodded them to explain further. “What about it  tasted amazing?” or “Why didn’t you care for it?” he asked with genuine interest. Chef Soper-Kolton stood by in her apple green chef’s jacket and  dark cap, eagerly listening to their comments and suggestions.  Other members of her team, including Joanne Fitzpatrick, manager of food and nutrition services for all 16 schools in Fairfield, were interested in hearing  their candid responses also.

With the nutritional analysis now complete, the young tasters went home to celebrate holidays with their families. Now, Soper- Kolton will enter the comments along with precise nutritional analysis and photos, on the contest application.  With the contest deadline looming, she had her work cut out for her.  If this tasty and nutritious quiche is chosen to be part of the final 15 recipes being considered for nation wide hot lunch school programs, her recipe will be tested and tasted by the judges.  The winning chef’s team of cafeteria cook, nutritionist, student and one parent will be invited to visit with Mrs. Obama and eat the dish together. Most importantly, the winning recipe will be distributed to schools throughout the U.S. as a means of encouraging healthier eating in America’s schools.

Check out the mention in newstimes.com

We will keep you posted when the contest results are in.  Good luck Chef Linda!

Crustless Quinoa & Kale Quiche Recipe