7 Judges, 100 Dishes, & 1 Huge Surprise
Marshall and I first heard about the Healthy Lunchtime Recipe Challenge when someone forwarded us a link about it on Epicurious. The challenge was for a parent and child to make a health school lunch. One team from each state will be selected as a winner and treated to a special State Dinner in Washington, DC.
We knew this challenge was perfect for us. As Marshall was deciding what variation on a Cesar salad he wanted to make, I got another email.
That email was from Tanya Steel, the editor-in-chief of Epicurious, inviting us to help judge the challenge! Marshall and I quickly agreed to join White House Chef Sam Kass, Chef Jose Andres, a representative each from the Department of Education and Department of Agriculture (pretty sure this rep was the guy who created My Plate!), and Ms. Steel as challenge judges.
Fast forward to Wednesday, June 20. We arrived at the massively impressive catering hall used to create and judge the recipes after skipping breakfast and taking a healthy walk around the White House to prepare for the 100 dishes.
The first 40 came out and we were off!
Everything was creative and beautiful. Marshall skipped off on his own, unfazed by the prestigious company. He wove in and out of others with no rhyme or reason, often ignoring the scoring rubric neatly placed on top of the recipe and nutritional information next to the dish.
I caught up with him over conversation about one of the lunches and discovered his awkward strategy, so I gave him a new one and saw that he went back and filled out his score sheets. That’s what moms are for!
Out came the next 40.
I had pleasant conversations with the Department of Education and the wonderful staff who were busily bringing us small water bottles to wash it all down.
I eavesdropped on the chefs as they partnered in praise and constructive criticisms over dishes, often using terms and vocabulary like they were describing fine bottles of wine. They laughed, ribbed, and disagreed with each other like old friends.
I noted that some dishes were on skewers and some required a cutting implement, both of which are not usually allowed in school — but since that was not part of the judging criteria it was to be of no concern.
Finally, the last 20.
Everyone was slowing down. Marshall started sitting down after one or two bites. Chef Kass was down on one knee in front of a dish. I found myself taking deep gulping breaths of air.
One of the criteria was affordability, a small part I think, but there nonetheless. I somehow made that the category I gave the most thought to, thinking that of the judges I was the one most likely familiar with today’s grocery store prices.
100 Dishes Tasted!
Finally we were finished with all the delightful lunch bites. This was now the time for us to mingle and chat as we all reflected on the experience and the 1,100 plus entries to this challenge. Marshall and I could never have imagined a few months ago that we would’ve been in that room enjoying that conversation!
And then something even more amazing happened … Chef Kass personally invited us to the State Dinner in August! We’ll be able to sit alongside the talented, smart parent-child recipe winners and partake of an excellent meal in a room full of people who are living the Portion Size Me goals.
So many good things are happening to us! So many once-in-a-lifetime experiences! We promise that we are savoring each and every delicious moment!!!