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Greenport district to face off in Junior Iron Chef competition

For the sixth year in a row, Greenport middle and high school students will battle it out against over 20 other school districts for the top Junior Iron Chef title.

The two-part annual competition, held at Whole Foods in Lake Grove March 9, mirrors the structure of the Food Network show: competitors will create recipes and compete in a one-day cooking challenge. Teams of three to five students create dishes which utilizes five main ingredients, two of which need to be on the USDA ingredient list, used in school cafeterias, Greenport Superintendent David Gamberg said. Recipes cannot be desserts or include meat, fish or nuts.

High school teams will receive a secret ingredient at the competition that needs to be incorporated into the dish. Dishes are judged based on taste, presentation, creativity, use of local and USDA ingredients, healthy choices, and if the dish is cafeteria ready, according to Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, who helps coordinate the event.

The high school competition is at noon, and a separate competition for middle schoolers takes place at 10 a.m. At 2 p.m., judges will present awards in three categories: the traditional first, second and third place for best dish; mise en place, or “everything in its place,” for exemplary teamwork and professionalism throughout the competition; and public presentation, for best poster, display and judge presentation.

The Greenport High School team are guided by home economics teacher Marianne Ladalia, who led the school to a second-place finish 2015.

Mrs. Ladalia is in charge of building the team, obtaining required paperwork from parents, the district and CCE. She has stayed in contact with CCE, Mr. Gamberg said, making sure all required information is submitted on a timely basis, as there are deadlines for submitting recipes, waivers, nutrition facts and local ingredient lists.

The team decides on an original recipe and perfects it over many practice sessions, the superintendent said. District principals Gary Kalish and Joseph Tsaveras have provided input and support.

“Creating a recipe involves problem solving, creativity, planning, the science of chemical interaction, the mathematics of measurement, experimenting, flexibility, performing under pressure outside of one’s comfort zone, persevering, teamwork, thinking outside the box … believing in your abilities and never giving up,” Mr. Gamberg said in a statement Friday.

This year, middle school teams are expected to create breakfast entrees. Greenport’s team of five students will be led by teacher Katherine Ryan.

Farm-to-table is a key part of the competition, which emphasizes local ingredients. Greenport plans to utilize their school garden and new hydroponic garden for ingredients, Mr. Gamberg said.

The district became involved in the competition during the 2012-2013 academic year after receiving an announcement for the event from CCE.

Mr. Gamberg created a “Chopped” competition in the district, based on another popular Food Network program, which takes place several times a year in the school’s home economics room.

“We are thrilled that our students continue to participate in this authentic way of learning,” Mr. Gamberg said in a statement Monday. “Capitalizing on the incredible enthusiasm that we see through many television outlets to celebrate nutrition, food, and food preparation.”

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