Chef Johnny Prep: Clash of the Cooking Crews

June 30, 2013  • 

In southeast Michigan, kids are excited about a new healthy cooking competition, Clash of the Cooking Crews. In the most recent contest, teams from four different middle schools came together to compete and show off the healthy breakfast, lunch and snack recipes they developed during themselves. All recipes were required to meet USDA guidelines and to be made from scratch using fresh vegetables and fruits. In addition to preparing the recipes, teams made nutritional presentations to the judges. The final element of the competition was videos that each team made to promote healthy eating to other students.

Clash of the Cooking Crews is a part of the nonprofit organization Quality for Kids, founded by Chef Johnny Prep and co-sponsored by Henry Ford Health Care Systems. The program’s mission is to create a nation of school-age cooks who are capable of modifying recipes to create their own versions optimized for flavor, appearance and healthfulness. The goal is to make it fun for kids to eat healthy by developing a lively, competitive and club-based environment with incentives to succeed.

Developing its roots in its inaugural event, “Veggie Wars” (check out this video!), it became clear that students had the ability to influence each other much more effectively than adults when it came to their lunch room food choices. Followup research by a graduate team at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business indicated that a school vs. school competition with high visibility and incentive would be the most effective approach for generating buzz around food and nutrition, and Clash of the Cooking Crews was launched!

Over several months, teams of students – the “Cooking Crews” – met and cooked each week. Using both brainstorming and scientific methods, they optimized base recipes in each category. In June 2013, the teams assembled in a stadium kitchen to see who could create the tastiest, most nutritious and most attractive food (view the competition!). Nutritional experts, chefs and food media judges assembled to witness and applaud the outstanding food that was presented. The outcome? The students were energized, educated and skilled not only at making their food, but also at promoting it to other students.

Clash of the Cooking Crews intends to works towards scaling up its program to a national competition. Visit the Quality for Kids Clash of the Cooking Crews’ website to learn how your school can get involved!