First Parasole corporate chef Todd Bolton’s Porcupine Sliders became a finalist in the Whole Grains category, one of three areas of entry in Michelle Obama’s “Recipes for Healthy Kids Challenge.”
“Today we won Best in Nation in our category,” said Bolton. “Which means that only two competitors nationwide stand in our way from winning the Grand Prize and a trip to the White House.”
First Lady Michelle Obama and the USDA launched the recipe competition in September, 2010, challenging school district teams to develop creative, nutritious and kid-approved recipes that schools can easily incorporate into National School Lunch Program menus. Entries were solicited in three categories: whole grain foods, dark green and/or orange vegetables; and dried beans and peas.
Parasole’s Entry: Turkey Porcupine Sliders
Working with a team of staff members and students at the South Education Center Alternative Program (SECA) school, where his son is a student, Todd created Porcupine Sliders: mini turkey burgers made with spinach, dried cranberries and brown rice served on toasted multigrain rolls with lettuce and tomato.
Prior to entering the competition, Todd revised the recipe several times. “Originally, we fried the sliders,” says Bolton, “but to reduce fat, we adapted the recipe for baking. We also served them to the students and took their responses into account.
“It was a challenge. I wanted to create something that would taste great, but would be fun and here’s the kicker, compliant. We had a volume of government guidelines to adhere to, things related to salt content, percentage of calories from sugar, etc. We had to submit our recipe for nutritional analysis. We needed a signoff from the school nurse, a teacher and a lunch lady.
“And of course, we needed the kids to give it a thumbs up.”
Victory in the Semi-Finals
In March of 2011, Bolton and his team were notified that they were one of five semi-finalists in their category. That victory triggered a visit from Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) staff and judges, who judged the Porcupine Sliders on four criteria: taste and flavor profile; appeal to students; creativity and originality; and appearance and presentation.
On June 16, Todd Bolton and his SECA teammates learned that they had won their category, beating out all Whole Grain recipe competitors nationwide and would compete as finalists for the Grand Prize.
And now: The National Cook-Off
On July 25, Bolton and his team will compete against the two remaining competitors in a final Cook-Off event at the American Culinary Federation (ACF) National Convention in Dallas, Texas.
Again, judges will rate the recipes on taste and flavor profile; appeal to students; creativity and originality; and appearance and presentation.
And the winner receives….
Should Parasole win it all, SECA will receive $3,000 and Bolton’s team will be invited to the White House to prepare their recipe for First Lady Michelle Obama.
“We’ll make a few extra, too, just in case Barack, Sasha and Malia haven’t had lunch,” promises Bolton.