In an effort to capture the hearts and minds of tomorrow’s chefs and consumers, USA Rice conducted two Think Rice cooking competitions here, one for high school students and the other for elementary students enrolled in an after-school program. The St. Michael Catholic Secondary School boasts a state-of the-art kitchen, where approximately 120 students were taught rice culinary skills over several weeks leading up to the competition. Thanks to the generous donation of brown rice from Terry Henderson at Dainty Foods, a major U.S. rice importer and the largest supplier of private label rice in the country, the students were able to experiment making multiple recipes.
Four groups of four students each competed in front of an esteemed panel of judges that included the Mayor and other politicians, a reporter, and local cookbook celebrity, Rose Reisman. The Brown Rice Burrito claimed first place, however, all the students received gifts and a grand prize was awarded to the school to be used in their nutrition program. Following the competition, Reisman gave a one hour seminar to 100 students on U.S. rice as an important food and culinary ingredient. The elementary student culinary competition, “Wrap Up with Rice,” required participants to complete a rice project and cook with rice several times a week in preparation for a live demonstration in front of judges, school staff, chefs, and nutritionists. The winning team created a Cheeseburger Rice Pie, while the runners up created Vegetable Rice Pizza, and a Classic Baked Risotto. “Both groups of students talked about the pressure and the fun of competing, and how nervous and excited they were cooking in front of the judges,” said Pereina Choudhury, USA Rice’s consultant in Canada. “It’s been encouraging to see the enthusiasm and creativity of these students, and also how receptive they are to our messages about the versatility, healthiness, and superb quality of U.S. rice.”