Fifth-grader Kandace Henderson had been a finalist the past two years in the Sodexo Future Chef Competition, and her persistence paid off last week when she won the annual event.
Henderson, who attends Joseph S. Shanklin Elementary, was one of 12 elementary school finalists from across the Beaufort County School District who prepared healthy Mexican-inspired dishes – this year’s competition category – for a panel of five judges at River Ridge Academy. Judges awarded points based on the recipes’ originality, taste, healthy attributes, plate presentation, ease of preparation and kid-friendliness.
Henderson’s winning dish was “Latin Spiced Salmon with Tortilla Boats.” She said her previous experience as a finalist in 2017 and 2018 definitely was an asset.
“I definitely wasn’t as nervous as before,” she said. “Everything just came together this year.”
For her first-place finish, Henderson was awarded a prize basket of cookware, kitchen utensils, cutting boards and a Future Chef apron. She now has a chance to move on to the 2019 regional and national Future Chef competitions. More than 2,700 students from 250 school districts across the nation are competing in similar events this spring.
Beaufort County’s 12 finalists were chosen from more than 24 young cooks from district elementary schools who submitted recipes in this year’s challenge, sponsored by Sodexo.
Second place went to fifth-grader Escarlett Galo (Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts) for her dish “Rice with Shrimp.” In third place was fifth-grader Pedro Lopez (Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts) for his “Pupusas with Pork and Cheese.”
All participants received gift bags including cooking utensils. Second and third place received additional cookware.
“Each year this competition stands out because it gives our kids an opportunity to showcase their talents,” said Sodexo Operations Manager Roberta Edwards. “They create and serve healthy and high-quality food, and their passion for cooking really comes through.”
Edwards said the company’s annual competition is particularly appropriate for Beaufort County because it’s a tourism-focused economy with many opportunities in the hospitality industry.
The other finalists were:
- Aidan Pozos (Grade 4, Hilton Head Island Elementary) – Pork Pozole
- Lucia Rivera (Grade 5, Joseph Shanklin Elementary) – Puerto Rican Stuffed Canoes
- Gabriel Compton (Grade 5, Robert Smalls International Academy) – Shrimp Tacos
- Alexis Berryhill (Grade 5, Beaufort Elementary) – Fricase de Pollo
- Mia Jaquiss (Grade 3, Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts – Latin Sweet Potato Chili
- Brea Parker (Grade 5, Beaufort Elementary) – Paella
- Macy Benson (Grade 4, Hilton Head Island Elementary – Empanadas
- Peraiyah Parker (Grade 3, Mossy Oaks Elementary) – Brown Rice with Chicken
- London Thomas (Grade 3, Mossy Oaks Elementary) – Sunny Side Chili
Photo above from left: Runner-up Escarlett Galo (Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts); winner Kandace Henderson (Joseph S. Shanklin Elementary); and second runner-up Pedro Lopez (Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts).