On April 30 th , 2016, 12 teams of teenagers competed in the American Heart Association Teens Cook with Heart competition, hosted at The Culinary Academy of Las Vegas. During the inaugural Teens Cook with Heart Las Vegas competition, high school students competed for awards in two savory and dessert meal categories, as well as awards for top team and top chef. Winners will have their recipes included in the Flavors of the Heart 2016 Recipe Book, and their dishes will be sampled by more than 400 other participants.
The program, intended to increase awareness of healthy eating, encourage a decreased use of fat, sugar and sodium and increase the use of fiber and nutrients in meals, brought five local judges and aspiring cooks together for a day of heated cookoffs.
The judges included: Executive Chef Mark LoRusso from Costa Di Mare at the Wynn Las Vegas—voted Best Chef by the Southern Nevada Hotel Concierge Association; Executive Chef Bobby Neese of the Smith Center for the Performing Arts of Las Vegas—who has worked under Diamond Award and Michelin Star chefs; pastry chef Betty Park of Scarpetta and DOCG Las Vegas; AHA Circle of Red member Mya Reyes; and the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas’ very own Executive Chef, Jon Stokes. A man with over 25 years of experience.
Celebrity chef Vic Vegas also made an appearance at the competition. From dishwasher to executive chef to Food Network star, Vic Vegas added his own experience and shared stories with contestants to encourage them that anything is possible.
Together, students and chefs worked to create meals with very specific requirements. Meals needed to be less than 700 calories, consist of less than 30% fat and less than 10% added sugar, and include less than 600mg of sodium and less 95mg of cholesterol. Dishes were also judged on taste, presentation, and sanitation—offering contestants a reallife comparison to working in the restaurant industry. It was a steep order, but the students were successful.
The most successful student, Renee Sandy, won the Top Chef award and a summer internship opportunity with Betty Park. Many contestants received medals, and each student walked away with the experience of a lifetime and are excited to bring home all of the tips and tricks they learned during the TCWH program.
Plans for next year’s competition are already underway, and excitement is building as the program and competition grows.
For more photos of this year’s competition, visit Teens Cook with Heart website.