Peninsula School Board President Rand Wilhelmsen had no problem admitting it was a tough night to have a tailgate party.
“Winds were predicted to blow at 50 miles an hour and buckets of rain were forecast,” said Wilhelmsen, who came up with the idea for the event.
This was the setting for the mid-October first annual tailgate cook-off at Peninsula High School’s cafeteria where 13 elementary school chefs and their family helpers came out in the rain to do their best to win the contest. Armed with their best recipes for fixing the perfect burger, the chefs and families were running around the PHS kitchen doing their best to get the right ingredient on just the right spot and then to plate the burger in time for judges to decide on on the best burger of the night.
I remember photographing similar cookoffs at PHS years ago and what a ball I had.
Wilhelmsen explained that “contestants were chosen based on their recipes submitted to Sodexo, our food services contractor, and Sodexo’s Katie Walters.”
Each chef team consisted of a child and at least one parent. Judges were selected by Walters and Sodexo. Contestants had to fix their best burger and 23 more in 30 minutes.
“The experience of cooking with my dad in the cookoff was amazing!” said Kameron Asbra, a Vaughn Elementary third-grader. “It was a lot of fun for me.”
Voyager third-grader Claire Hulbrock got to make the food with her grandma.
“It was really special that I got to do it with her,” Claire said. “I was so excited, I asked my mom every morning, ‘When do I get to do the cookoff?’ It’s called a Funion Burger. It has horseradish, sour cream, a dash of pepper, salt, and garlic, onions, Funions, pepper jack cheese and bacon. We got aprons and hats and I still wear mine at home when I help my family make dinner.”
Claire’s fifth-grader schoolmate, Jane-Abigail Rogg-Wilde, said, “I really like cooking. I’ve been cooking for as long as I can remember. My mom and I thought up the recipe. We were thinking outside the box. It’s called Jane’s Seaside Burger. It has dried seaweed, white cheese, yellow tomato and our own sauce - we just mixed stuff together that we found in our kitchen until it tasted good.”
Walters thanked Main and Vine manager John Leathers and assistant manager Kyle, who provided aprons for everyone who participated and also gave the grand prize.
Competing chefs were Asbra, Voyager third-grader Jane Abigail Rogg-Wilde, fourth-grader Taylor Hulbrock and fifth-grader Claire Hulbrock; Discovery first-graders Audrey Keigley and Jade Wu; Artondale second-grader Guy Ridout IV; Minter Creek third-grader Julia Warfield; Purdy fifth-grader Chloe Blalock and fourth-grader Lily Cheavront; and Harbor Heights first-grader Stella Lindsey, second-grader Jace Till and fourth-grader Karla Rohr.
“Jade and Audrey were really excited to talk about their experience,” said Discovery Principal David Brooks.
“We tested our Taco Burger at home with mango salsa and then made it at the competition with real mangos, added taco seasoning and tomatoes and put it on a burger” said Audrey. “I learned that baking is fun!”
Audrey’s mom said, “Her dream, now, is to become a baker or chef.”
Jade created the “WU-licious” Hamburger, which included avocado, tomato, onion, cheese, hot sauce and brown sugar bacon. “It wasn’t too spicy,” she said. “My favorite ingredient was the brown sugar bacon. So good! I was nervous and didn’t expect to win the grand prize (a Main and Vine food basket).” (Which she shared with her brothers and sisters.)
Wilhelmsen said, “The chefs created burgers with seaweed for lettuce, had a breakfast burger with a fried egg on top, messy burgers like one covered in Nachos, a Subway burger with every thing on it, a Cheetos burger and a French fried onion ring burger. So much creativity, I am sure judges had a hard time deciding which burger won.”
Discovery first-grader Jade Wu took the first-place prize.
But I didn’t get to taste it.
Hugh McMillan is a longtime contributing writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at email@example.com.