4-H Food Challenge gives students a chance to represent the state at the National level in October

Louisiana is known for its cuisine, and one reason is because people start cooking early there. To illustrate this point, a large group of 4-H’ers competed at the 4-H Food Challenge with the chance to represent the state at a national competition.  LSU Ag Center reporter Craig Gautreaux has this report from Alexandria, Louisiana.

More than 150 Louisiana 4-H students were busy chopping, stirring and plating a dish to impress the judges at the 4-H Food Challenge. The competitors had 40 minutes to prepare a main dish, but they were not judged on the dish alone.

Toby Lepley: They also have to know the nutritional value as well as the economic value. So, the young people really got to experience what it takes and what it costs to cook a meal.

The students had to purchase items from a pantry to complete their dish. They also had to use a secret ingredient, which turned out to be a Louisiana staple: rice.

Claire Zak: Rice, as we know in Louisiana, is something that can be used in so many different dishes and in so many different ways. And the kids are proof of that.

Having to prepare a meal without knowing what ingredients would be involved put these young chefs into a pressure cooker situation.

Zak: It is a high-stress environment, so we hope they will gain confidence and really grow in all of those skills.

Some of the contestants were seasoned veterans in the kitchen.

Isaac Coreil: I think we did really good. We did really good. Our speech was really good. We knew tons of facts. I think we nailed it.

Another essential chef skill is improvising when things don’t quite go as planned.

Lily Ledet: It was originally a veggie rice and gravy, but the gravy turned out a little too thick, so when we mixed it up with the veggies and rice, it turned into a veggie porridge.

Teamwork and effective communication were also essential ingredients to successfully compete in the challenge, according to many of the contestants. With the LSU AgCenter, this is Craig Gautreaux reporting.

The winners of the high school division will advance to the national challenge that will be held in Dallas at the Texas State Fair in October.

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