With her culinary arts teacher, Stephanie Martin, serving as her sous chef, seventh-grade Barrington Middle School student Madison Gentry cooked her way to the top prize last night in the Hillsborough County School District's Cook It Up! contest.
An avid Justin Bieber fan, Gentry won the grand prize of two tickets to the sold-out Justin Bieber "Believe" tour in Orlando Jan. 25, with one-night hotel accommodations, compliments of Radio Disney.
In addition, her winning recipe will be featured on the districtwide school lunch menu, she will appear on Radio Disney’s “Kid’s Concern Show” and she will celebrate her victory with a school lunch party hosted by Radio Disney.
Cook It Off! is sponsored by Hillsborough County School District's Student Nutrition Services to encourage students to promote the importance of healthy eating and introduce new, kid-appealing school meal options.
Dozens of students in grades three to eight from throughout Hillsborough County submitted recipes, but only five were chosen to compete in the school lunch cook-off Thursday, Jan. 17 in the Blake High School dining room.
With Justin Bieber tickets on the line, the 12-year-old Barrington student didn't hesitate to enter the contest.
"I only listen to Justin Bieber's music," she said, who said she became interested in cooking when she began taking Martin's elective culinary arts class at Barrington this year.
Using Justin Bieber's song, "All Around the World," as her inspiration, Gentry created a dish that included foods from different cultures around the world including teriyake chicken, Spanish rice and tomatoes and okra seasoned with curry powder and Creole seasoning.
Her recipe struck a chord with staff in the Student Nutrition Services department. Gentry was named a finalist in December based on her recipe's creativity and originality, use of two or more food groups, ease of preparation in a school kitchen, and the quality and content of an essay she wrote explaining what made her recipe nutritious and why it’s important to establish healthful eating habits.
During the cook-off Thursday night, Whole Foods, an event sponsor, provided all of the ingredients for each of the finalists to prepare their recipes for a panel of five culinary experts and three high school culinary students.
The judges scored the recipes based on the meal's texture, taste, creativity and presentation. After tabulating the scores, they named Gentry Cook It Up’s Ultimate School Lunch Chef.
Barrington Chef to Compete for Justin Bieber Tickets