Team Knox Rocks take State award in Farm to School Cook-off

Apple, maple, oat muffin tops, a spinoff of a banana spilt made with yogurt, a decorated hard-boiled egg, and a beat and berry smoothie were on the breakfast menu as two teams of school food service employees took to the kitchen at Kennebec Valley Community College this week. This was the final round of Maine’s first Farm to School Cook-off designed to promote using local products in school lunches.

Team Rocks Knox 2016 State winner
Left to right: Maine DOE’s Nutrition Specialist Stephanie Stambach, Susan Boivin, food service director for Five-Town CSD and MSAD 28, Charles Butler, school nutrition director for RSU 13, RSU 61’s Joyce Small, school lunch employee and Kitchen Manager Lori Andrews.

After the 60 minutes of prep, presentation to a panel of three judges and back to the kitchen to put the finishing touches on the lunch menu, Team Knox Rocks scored the highest with 211 points compared to Team Songo Locks School’s 195 points.

“Charles and I thought it was so cool of you to dream this up…this is so doable,” said Susan Boivin, food service director for Five-Town CSD and MSAD 28, when speaking about the Maine Department of Education creating the cook-off event.

Judges looking on as Team Knox Rocks makes breakfastCo-team member Charles Butler, school nutrition director of RSU 13, said the Farm to School Cook-off is being recognized. “The publicity has people talking. So many people assume we work with all frozen and canned goods.” Boivin chimed in, “There are a lot of misconceptions, so they now have this event to look at to see what we do.”

The winning pair don’t work together each day but rather they come from two different school districts along Maine’s Knox County coastline from Camden to Cushing to make up this volunteer team for the competition having come from competing restaurants in their prior jobs. The pair faced off against two people who have worked in tandem for the past eight years at the Songo Locks Elementary School in Naples. Joyce Small is a school lunch employee along with Kitchen Manager Lori Andrews.

Let the scoring beginRSU 61’s nautical themed lunch menu was inspired by a book the first graders were reading called “Nicholas,” which Small said really engaged the students more to enjoy the tuna salad schooner. Team Knox Rocks whipped up a Shepard’s Pie with a cinnamon-chipotle blend and an apple, carrot slaw that caught the judge’s attention.

Judge Mark LaCasse, owner of The Maine Meal in Skowhegan, sported an intense facial expression in trying to define these two flavors before asking. Once learning of the two ingredients, with a chuckle, he said, “I’ll have to figure that out and get back to you,” as he chased it with a forkful of slaw.

The slaw captured Judge Brenda Madden’s palate. She is a culinary arts student at Kennebec Valley Community College that hosted the event. Allison Daugherty, nutrition director for RSU 3 also joined the panel inquiring about the vegetable serving between ants on a log and the tuna schooner. The judges scored the dishes based on presentation, taste, creativity, and feasibility to be used in a school breakfast or lunch program.

The 2016 winners have now earned the bragging rights to talks to other school nutrition staff about the Maine Farm to School Cook-off to build enthusiasm for next year’s competition.

The cook-off is part of the State’s child nutrition projects and follows legislation to support healthy meals in schools and meet National School Breakfast and Lunch Program requirements.

For more information on Maine’s Local Foods to Local Schools program, visit www.maine.gov/doe/nutrition/programs/localfoods/ or contact Child Nutrition Specialist Walter Beesley at walter.beesley@maine.gov. For information on how you can be part of next year’s Farm to School cook-off, contact Nutrition Specialist Stephanie Stambach at stephanie.stambach@maine.gov.

All recipes from the regional and final competitions will later be shared in a Maine Farm to School Cook-off recipe book.