BRATTLEBORO — Cooking up a recipe from scratch is easy when you're part of a team.
"I really believe in our team," said Alex Aither, a fifth-grader at Green Street School in Brattleboro. "We all get along really well and we are all close friends. We work very well together. There's no question about it."
Alex is one of five school members competing in the 13th Annual Jr Iron Chef Vermont Competition on March 14 in Essex Junction. Last Wednesday, Alex and her fellow team members were cooking up a storm in the teacher's lounge of Green Street School getting ready for the competition.
"We we're going to do a crepe with homemade Nutella," said Alex, explaining that it was inspired by Alice Charkes, who teaches French at Green Street School. "Every once in a while they do French cooking and we made Nutella in her class. That's what inspired this idea."
Because Jr Iron Chef doesn't accept desserts, the kids had to retool their recipe.
"We are doing a crepe with a pink Alfredo sauce," said Alex, with beets and rhubarb for coloring.
Tara Gordon, Green Street's garden coordinator, said the team, Green Street Chefs, will be entering their dish in the Lively Local category, which requires recipes to include at least five local ingredients.
"We are actually using some of the things from our garden," said Gordon.
"Stuff we harvested this summer," chimed in Alex.
"Our school garden is a pretty big part of our school program," said Principal Mark Speno, who watched as the team practiced preparing their recipe. "Tara is here through the fall and into the spring, working with classes in the garden, planting and harvesting. In the winter, she comes and does cooking classes with the kids using some of the foods they harvested."
This is the first year a team from Green Street School has entered into the statewide competition, said Speno. He's excited for the kids, he said, but he's also delighted they share their creations with the school staff.
"At the end of each lesson, they come around to feed people to get a reaction," he said. "Most of the time, it's delicious."
The students had to develop their own recipe, said Gordon, and had to determine which ingredients and how much of each ingredient was going to be used.
"This is our homemade recipe," said Jeriah Easton. "One hundred percent original."
"They've been fine-tuning their recipe, repeating it so that they can actually do it during the competition," said Gordon.
While Gordon was helping the team members in the teacher's lounge on Wednesday, on March 14, they'll be on their own.
"I have to stand behind a rope," said Gordon.
Phoenyx Gervais, a fifth-grader, said she gets a little nervous thinking about the competition.
"But I think we can get it under control," she said. Phoenyx said she was inspired by her sister, Dakota, to get involved in Jr Iron Chef. "She suggested it and I really love it."
"I love cooking," said Jeriah. "It's really fun and once you're done cooking, you get to eat what you made. And it's really awesome to see the process you had to go through."
But Jeriah said not everything comes out tasting great. "I still eat them, I just don't enjoy them as much as the others."
"I don't cook at home, usually just a sandwich," said Jayson Tirrell, as he was stirring the Alfredo sauce to keep it from burning. "So I thought it would be fun to learn how to cook. Cooking makes me think about my grandmother and how everything has to be perfect."
Phoenyx added shredded beats to the sauce, which was made with local goat cheese, to turn it pink.
In addition to Alex, Jeriah, Jayson and Phoenyx, the Green Street Chefs' fifth team member is Tarren Todd, who wasn't able to make Wednesday's after-school class.
Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or firstname.lastname@example.org.