Friday, November 18, 2011

Sam Kass Stars As Guest Judge On "Chopped" - Video Preview

Let's Move!: A special episode devoted to school lunches...
For the second time since First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Let's Move! campaign, Senior Policy Advisor For Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass will judge a TV culinary competition dedicated to school lunches. In 2010, Kass guest-judged Top Chef: Washington, DC, as pro chefs tried to please middle schoolers. But Kass' upcoming TV outing on Tuesday, Nov. 22, has a better twist: He'll judge real! live! "lunch ladies" battling it out on "Chopped," Food Network's popular pot boiler hosted by Ted Allen. (Above: Kass onscreen)

The episode is billed as "an incredible competition" with "an emotional victory," and that's because the four women going knife-to-knife for the $10,000 prize are standouts in the school food world.

Each lunch lady comes from a school that declines to offer pre-processed, re-heated fare from the kind of big food corporations that successfully lobbied Congress to weaken school nutrition standards. They all run cafeterias on a tight budget, yet manage to serve delicious, healthy scratch-cooked fare. One contestant works at a school she says is more like a farm, with a 1-acre vegetable garden and livestock. One was trained at Johnson & Wales, and one is a former baker. Still, the lunch ladies will be using USDA ingredients they'd have in a school kitchen, including dill pickles and canned tuna. But they'll also be using quinoa and fresh vegetables as they show America that cooking healthy school lunches with the kind of challenges all schools face is possible.

From the episode notes: "The ladies seek to make a big impression with their first dishes, made with dill pickles and canned tuna. Then in the entrée round, quinoa is a new ingredient for two out of the three chefs. Will they be able to take something unknown and create something great?"

"The two finalists pour their hearts into making fantastic desserts that include grapes and cream cheese. And an emotional victory brings an incredible competition to its conclusion."

And the competitors are...
Three of the chefs come from Connecticut. Cheryl Barbara, from High School in the Community in New Haven, runs a backpack program, and sends food home with kids on weekends. Rhonda Deloach, from the Common Ground magnet school in New Haven, is the chef who sources from her own school farm. Diane Houlihan is the assistant cook manager at Great Neck Elementary School in Waterford. New York provides the fourth lunch lady: She's Arlene Leggio of Islip High School in Long Island.

Two other judges join Kass: Chef Marc Murphy, noted in the video as a "big supporter" of Share Our Strength's "No Kid Hungry" campaign, and fine "dining specialist" and chef Amanda Freitag, noted as a supporter of Edible Schoolyard NYC.

The episode airs on the Food Network on Tuesday at 10 PM ET/PT. On Nov. 29, Kass will emcee a different culinary competition--but this one's not on television. Read all about it here. Check out the White House's before-after school lunch menu, which shows how child friendly meals in institutional settings can be far healthier.

*Video from Chopped/Food Network

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