Treasure Mountain Jr. High holds Iron Chef cooking class competition

PARK CITY, Utah — Thanks in large part to a grant from the nonprofit Park City Education Foundation (PCEF), ninth-grade students, on Friday, enjoyed the fruits of their labor in the annual Iron Chef-style competition at Treasure Mountain Jr. High (TMJH).

For the past five years, Diane Rodrigues has held the comp in her Career and Technical Education (CTE) Food and Nutrition class. Students earn their Food Handler permits and are so proud when they get their first job in the food industry.

Each class voted on a secret ingredient for the entree and dessert categories. Each class had a different theme and secret ingredient to incorporate:

Class 1

  • Entree Secret Ingredient: Bacon. Winning Dish: Chicken and Bacon Ranch Alfredo with Homemade Pasta
  • Dessert Secret Ingredient: Cinnamon. Winning Dish: Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting 

Class 2 

  • Entree Secret Ingredients: Italian Themed. Winning Dishes: Zeppoles, and Margherita Pizza

Class 3 

  • Entree Secret Ingredient: Citrus. Winning Dish: Lemony Carbonara with Pancetta and Bacon
  • Dessert Secret Ingredient: Also Citrus. Winning Dish: Lemon Blossom Cupcakes 

This year they had judges from within the Jr. High School and outside of the school, including John Fitzgerald from Park City Catering Company Savoury Kitchen and former retired teacher Mary Kay Becker from TMJH. Many TMJH teachers and administrators judged as well.

“If not for the support and enthusiasm of the judges, I don’t know what we would do.” Ms. Rodrigues said. “The students love this end of semester competition, although it can get a bit stressful with cleaning, timing, and preparation before the judges enter.”

Photos courtesy of Diane Rodrigues.

Students choose the recipe and are given one practice day. Students must apply all the safety and sanitation rules learned when they received their Food Handler Permit and continue to practice throughout the cooking labs. This includes ensuring the meat’s temperature is correct, no cross-contamination occurs, dishes are washed in proper order, etc. “There are many fun and funny moments throughout the year in this class,” Rodrigues said. “I love teaching and treasure the relationships created in this environment.”

Even if many will never become chefs, they gain invaluable experiences such as knife cutting skills, basic cooking techniques, safety, and sanitation rules, and to expand their palate and make healthier food choices. They also learn the importance of effective teamwork and communication skills that can be applied in the food industry or any future job.

“As a teacher, my goal is to instill a love of cooking and teach them basic skills they can carry with them for a lifetime.”

Last year, they were given a grant by the PCEF.  The items purchased with the grant money were much-needed stainless steel pots and pans, silicone potholders, deep fryers, measuring equipment, mixing bowls, and more. “It’s had an incredible impact on the quality of food we prepare. I am so incredibly thankful for PCEF and their generosity in our classrooms,” said Rodrigues.

This specific grant was a Classroom Grant awarded to teachers who bring innovative ideas, concepts, or life practices to the classroom or school. Teachers get to conceptualize and then try new things— unique learning activities and innovative technology. Money is allocated to programs focusing on creativity and innovation, the whole child, and academic success. 

Jennifer Billow is the Associate Director of Communications and Development For PCEF. She said, “We want to give all Park City students the opportunities and skills to successfully navigate a dynamic world, one filled with exciting changes and new challenges we can’t even imagine. We want them to become tomorrow’s creative innovators, problem solvers, and leaders. That means our schools and educators must constantly evolve, and our funding supports that evolution. Our mission is to support educator-powered initiatives that inspire our students to reach their academic and lifelong potential. Funding for these creative programs doesn’t always fit within the strict limits of school district budgets. The popularity of these classes indicates that hands-on, real-world learning is interesting, fun, and makes a greater long-lasting impression on our students. We are thrilled to be able to support the creative educators willing to go the extra mile to make learning fun and rewarding, and we can only do so thanks to the generosity of PCEF donors.”

Some other recent examples of Classroom Grants from the PCEF include the following:

  1. Book Vending Machines at Ecker Hill Middle School and Parley’s Park Elementary School
  2. Claw Arcade style Machine for merit token prizes at TMJH
  3. Ski Design engineering at TMJH

Among countless other ways to donate, click here to learn about PCEF’s Planned Giving Program.

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