Future Chefs

¬°Que Delicioso! Kids Create Healthy Mexican Dishes
Posted on 04/19/2019
Fuiture Chefs contestanta slice and dice in the Cleveland HS kitchen

It’s reminiscent of “Chopped” or “Iron Chef” – tall-hatted, aproned chefs and their assistants slicing, dicing, and mixing.  But in this competition, the “chefs” are elementary students: future Bobby Flays, Cat Coras, and Emeril Lagasses, cooking up (and this is not an oxymoron) healthy Mexican dishes.  Bam!  Look out, Emeril – these kids are ready to take your place!

With their food displayed on long tables, contestants await judgingIn an effort to encourage students to develop life-long healthy eating habits, Rio Rancho Public Schools’ older elementary students are invited to participate in the annual “Future Chefs” competition sponsored by Sodexo, the company contracted by RRPS to provide school food services. The finalists broiled, sautéed, and plated in a friendly competition on Wednesday, April 17, and no one got “Chopped.”  This year’s competitors and awards are:

Healthy Attributes: 

  • Serena McHugh, Ernest Stapleton Elementary, 5th grade, “Tango Tacos” -- 1st Place
  • Serena Vinas, Cielo Azul Elementary, 5th grade, “Chicken Fiesta Soup” -- 2nd Place

Easy Preparation: 

  • Jasmine Troise, PSliced avocado ready to be combined into a dishuesta del Sol Elementary, 5th grade, “Turkey Tacos” -- 1st Place
  • Saraya Vigil, Maggie Cordova Elementary, 5th grade, “Mexican Rice Bowl” -- 2nd Place


  • Carter Wolfe, Cielo Azul Elementary, 5th grade, “Chicken Tacos” -- 1st Place
  • Cheyenne Jensen, Colinas del Norte Elementary, 5th grade, “Mexican Chicken Casserole” - 2nd Place


  • Myla Clayton, Ernest Stapleton Elementary, 5th grade, “Myla’s Healthy Enchiladas” -- 1st Place
  • Ashanta Roybal, Vista Grande Elementary, 4th grade, “Taco Bowls” - 2nd Place


  • Nathaniel Elijah Kerr, Cielo Azul Elementary, 5th grade, “Sheet Pan Salmon Fajitas with Avocado”- 1st Place
  • Juliana Lopez, Vista Grande Elementary, 5th grade, “My Delicioso Vegan Nacho” - 2nd Place

Future Chefs contestants pose in their chef hats and aprons with certificates and medalsThe national initiative, now in its ninth year, was created to get students thinking about making healthy food choices while also encouraging them to be active and creative in the kitchen. Elementary school students are invited to submit recipes for their favorite healthy concoction meeting the year’s theme.  Students must list both the ingredients and the step-by-step method for making the dish.  Sodexo staff then review the recipes and choose the finalists. 

Judges from RRHS Culinary Arts classes critique a contestant

During the finals, the students prepare their recipe in a fully-equipped cafeteria kitchen, supervised by Sodexo food services staff members who assure that safe food handling practices are followed and the competition is conducted safely.   High school students and faculty from the Rio Rancho High Culinary Arts program judge the students’ culinary creations.   

Rio Rancho’s finalists are part of a larger national competition that attracts more than 2,700 other students representing more than 1,400 Sodexo-served school sites in 30 states.