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Lehigh students to compete in cooking challenge

April 11, 2018
By ERIC DeVAUX ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Students from a Lehigh Acres school will be competing in a culinary competition against other students from all over Florida.

Veterans Park Academy for the Arts will send four students to compete in the 2018 Gridiron Cooking Challenge to be held on April 21 at the Miami Dolphins' training facility.

The sixth- and seventh-grade competitors are Macy Matheny, Ednita Tineo-Lopez, Jadah Hyppolita, and Summer Boling.

Article Photos

Summer Boling trains for the 2018 Gridiron Cooking Challenge to be held April 21 in Miami. Other students from Veterans Park Academy for the Arts who will participate are Macy Matheny, Ednita Tineo-Lopez, and Jadah Hyppolita. They will prepare a recipe for Three-Cheese Spinach Ravioli in a Shallot-Tomato Cream Sauce. The team is led by the students’ agricultural teacher, Laurie Spires, with training assistance provided by the school’s cafeteria manager, Mark Wilson.


Led by their agricultural teacher, Laurie Spires, the young cooks had only a week to prep for the upcoming competition.

"We just found out before spring break that we were accepted into the cooking challenge," Spires said.

They had a lot of ground to cover.

"We do gardening from the ground up," Spires said. "Planting crops, harvesting them, selling the produce to our faculty, putting the money back into it and cooking with it."

She was pleased with the team's first week of training.

"It's going well," Spires said. "They're just learning the recipe now. We have to practice on the timing so they have been staying after school Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays."

With one-on-one training with the cafeteria manager, Mark Wilson, the students took turns practicing during their agricultural class.

The team will prepare a recipe for Three-Cheese Spinach Ravioli in a Shallot-Tomato Cream Sauce.

"It's kind of a complicated recipe," Spires said. "They're making their own dough and then they are using a roller to roll it out. They're making a homemade cheese by separating cream and milk, and they have a cheese mixture and then they are making two sauces that go with it."

At the event, the students will have one hour to prepare their recipe.

"We present it to a panel of five judges and we also have to make 50 sample sizes of the recipe," Spires said.

It all started with an email passed down from the cafeteria manager. They are the only team from Lee County.

Spires wanted to get the students excited about the event.

"I showed my kids one of those cooking challenges for kids," Spires said. "If they were interested, I'd have them submit a recipe of their own. A few of them even made them at home and brought them in for us to sample them."

That's how she picked the team.

This is the first time students from Veterans Park have competed in this challenge.

With approval from the school, they applied for the competition and they were accepted.

"(The children) were excited," Spires said. "The cafeteria manager handed out aprons to them and I asked 'You just want to keep them here at school and then I'll give them to you tomorrow after school when we practice again?'" One little girl, she goes, 'No, I think I'm going to bring it home; in fact I might sleep in it.'"

Parents of the students also felt good to see their children be involved in a competition.

"I feel like it's an awesome opportunity and she is a very lucky little girl to partake in it," said Amy Matheny, Macy's mother. "I didn't even know they were going so big with it. She is very excited and we look forward to being there."



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