The Sylvia Center had the opportunity to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month in May with our Cooks for Health (CFH) middle-schoolers from our partner, Grand St. Settlement. Five teams made up of students from fourth to eighth grade from the School for Global Leaders, Cornelia Connelly Center, Transfiguration School, and Nest+m competed in a cook-off, where each team prepared a dish representative of an Asian country: China, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam. Our middle-schoolers impressed judges from TSC, Grand St. Settlement, and special guest judge Chef Jae Lee, with beautiful plating, bold flavors, and heartfelt teamwork. 

Team Japan prepared an elegant miso udon noodle soup, garnished with soft-boiled eggs and edible flowers. When asked what they enjoyed the most while working on this dish, the seventh graders from Cornelia Connelly Center said they enjoyed working together as a team the most. 


Team China prepared Mapo Tofu and scallion-ginger rice. These seventh and eighth graders from School for Global Leaders tied for second place and received a cash prize, a cutting board, and a recipe book. Chef Jae Lee commended them on their beautiful plating and use of negative space. 


Team Thailand prepared Tom Kha Soup, and tied for second place with team China. The seventh graders from Transfiguration School showcased their exceptional knife skills and explored staple Thai ingredients such as lemongrass, kaffir, and galangal. TSC Chef Educator Samantha Kwok shared, “We couldn’t perfect the recipe until the week of the competition, so the participants helped brainstorm different ideas and ingredients we could use to make it better, such as adding rice noodles, using tofu etc. To see them expand their mind and palette was so amazing to watch.” 


Team Vietnam prepared a vegetarian Banh Mi, and learned how to julienne and pickle vegetables, pan-fry tofu and make a marinade. The seventh graders from Nest+m, completed the three-way tie for 2nd place alongside teams China and Thailand. Their communication was stellar, and they found a lot of joy in crafting the sandwiches, reflecting on how their palates have evolved since the beginning of testing their recipe.


Team South Korea placed first with their preparation of rolled Korean omelet with spicy cucumber salad, and white rice. The fourth and fifth graders from Cornelia Connelly Center also made up the youngest team in the competition. They dominated the kitchen with their determination shining as they measured, leveled, and rolled perfect omelets. TSC Chef Educator Gabriel Chrinos felt proud to watch the girls “holding hands as a team, waiting for the winners to be announced, and then jumping for joy, screaming with excitement that they came in FIRST PLACE!” The students also proudly shared that they have prepared these dishes for their parents as well. 


Congratulations to our CFH middle-schoolers who embraced the diverse flavors of China, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam. The way they handled challenges as a team, showing confidence, independence, and genuine care for each other was truly commendable.